design:retail - January 2016 - (Page 26)

the visual eye 026 Make a Little (Socio-Political) Noise PETER-TOLIN BAKER VISUAL MERCHANDISING SPECIALIST P-T B DESIGN SERVICES L AST SPRING, after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, many retailers jumped on the "brand wagon" and seemingly overnight installed a multitude of creative and colorful (read: rainbow) window displays in celebration of this momentous occasion. As the court's ruling was not likely on most company's strategic visual merchandising schedules, it was an opportunity for many retailers to be spontaneous and inspired by the moment; a nice change from the more mundane product and service promotions. The use of window displays and visual merchandising as vehicles for a full range of provocative social messages has a long history in the world of retail. Earlier examples include eyebrowraising Victorian-era displays of ladies' lingerie on mannequins (headless forms, of course, so as to not be too controversial) and the geo-political WWII bonds and rationing window themes of the 1940s. Even the legendary window display master, Gene Moore of Tiffany & Co., used humor and subtlety for social commentary and created a reaction throughout his career (such as the infamous gin fountain display during the NYC water shortage). Further testing of social norms was apparent in the racy, sexually liberated boutique displays on London's Carnaby Street during the mod '60s heyday, as were the women's rights-themed displays of the '70s and AIDS awareness advertising slogans of the '90s. The retail stage continues to be a powerful representative and voice of social change among all the visual noise trying to gain our attention. But at times, even the most carefully planned display message can go too far in the eyes of some viewers. The use of whimsy and irreverence has JANUARY 2016 DESIGNRETAILONLINE.COM SALES ARE PEOPLE TOO! BUILD A WALL! FOR DISPLAYS! been a mainstay in the provocative displays at Barneys New York, in particular during Simon Doonan's inspiring reign as creative director. Remember the controversial Walt Disney "skinny Minnie" holiday video installation that poked fun at the fashion media and runway models, or the alarming, blood-streaked Helmut Lang murder scene windows?! Both created a significant amount of public outcry and media commentary against the use of such imagery-and in the latter example, the display was removed quickly and blame was conveniently placed on the creative director's subordinates for going too far. But rather then having a detrimental effect, if your business has built its customer loyalty with such a provocative approach (like Barneys), controversial displays can oftentimes only further burnish a reputation for being sophisticated, cool and hip. Even more recently, news coverage included a mother in Utah who was so offended by a PacSun display of provocative T-shirts that she bought out the store's entire supply of said shirts, only to return them later as a means of protest and to ensure a swift demise of the display-an extreme reaction to some, and a necessary call-to-action for others. As most retail display professionals well know, the primary purpose of a successful creative visual display is to generate sales. But it is also a means to help attract attention and stimulate customer interest; an invitation to enter, or stop and think. It creates desire-for a product, a brand or for more information. And in an evermore crowded and noisy retail landscape blending both online marketing and shopping seamlessly into the context of the bricks-and-mortar experience, the choice to be more provocative with a display presentation can make the difference of being seen and heard versus getting lost in a sea of retail sameness and political correctness. For some retailers, leveraging a more provocative stance can be very beneficial for sales, assuming it is in keeping with that company's values and brand appeal, as well as a reflection of their core custumer's values and lifestyle-be it MAC Cosmetics' social justice concerns, Abercrombie & Fitch's sexually charged marketing or Timberland's dedication to the environment. It can reflect well on a brand or business that they are engaged and concerned with certain world issues and current events-adding a valuable note of relevance to a brand's reputation. Which cause might be the right theme or message for your business? Take a chance! Perhaps this is the year you should consider when and how to join a long history of retail provocateurs and take a stand on a current event or issue via a creative display; a potentially exciting way to help grow customer interest and awareness of your business-and of course, increase sales. BASED IN NEW YORK, PETER-TOLIN BAKER IS ACTIVELY INVOLVED WITH RETAIL DESIGN AND VISUAL MERCHANDISING VIA P-T B DESIGN SERVICES (OWNER), THE FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (ADJUNCT PROFESSOR), RETAIL DESIGN INSTITUTE NY CHAPTER (BOARD PRESIDENT), AND AS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO DESIGN:RETAIL. Illustration courtesy of THINKSTOCK http://www.DESIGNRETAILONLINE.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of design:retail - January 2016

design:retail - January 2016
Editor’s Note
Show Talk
On Trend
We Love This!
Designer Picks
Clicks & Mortar
Have You Heard?
The Visual Eye
Searching for Steve Jobs
Searching for Steve Jobs
Winning Windows
Visual Eye
Visual Products

design:retail - January 2016