The holidays can be the most lucrative season for retailers both big and small. And other than offering sales incentives and launching a killer marketing plan, one of the best ways for brick-and-mortar businesses to leverage that extra traffic is by implementing some unique retail holiday window display ideas.
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales are expected to increase by 3.8% to 4.2% from last year’s holiday season—that’s a projected $727.9 billion to $730.7 billion spent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. But how do you get shoppers to choose your store?
With a playful, inventive, or just plain beautiful retail window display for Christmas and the winter holidays, you’ll encourage even casual browsers to stop in at your store. Designing window displays can be a great opportunity for you to flex your creativity, too.
But if you don’t have the time, bandwidth, or budget to dream up a unique window display, we’ve got you covered. We’ve found 19 of the most exciting window displays that other retailers have created in holidays past, all of which are easy to re-create with limited materials and design experience. We’ve also collected a few tips on how to design a festive display from a design expert. The best part? All these ideas are low-cost and low-lift, so you can focus your attention on having your most successful holiday season yet.
19 Retail Holiday Window Display Ideas to Try This Year
Ahead, you’ll find 19 retail holiday window display ideas that are as easy to execute as they are eye-catching.
1. Book Tree
Creating a book tree is obviously a sweet window display idea if you own a bookstore, stationery store, home decor store, or other book-adjacent store. But it can be an equally striking display for retail business owners who don’t want to spend much (or any) money on their window decorations: just use the books you already have at home. If you don’t have enough books, or if you want to make a taller tree, ask your employees to contribute some of their books, too, and/or scour the discount bins at a local secondhand bookstore. Then all you’ll need to purchase is a star, garlands, string lights, and some baubles to make your book tree actually resemble a Christmas tree, rather than a remarkably neat pile of books.
2. Pearl Garlands
Draping long strands of pearls in your window is a chic update on traditional garlands. Continue the wintery, all-white theme with white string lights, white fir trees, and silver or white starbursts. This holiday window display would be especially beautiful for boutiques, spas, salons, jewelry stores, home decor stores, or stores whose customers generally appreciate the understated elegance of a simple, tonal window display.
3. Festive Mannequins
If you own a boutique, get creative with your mannequins: Decorate them in ornament-dotted fir skirts, belt them in ribbons, or drape them in string lights. You can also use this as an opportunity to showcase your products (they are mannequins, after all). If you create a fir-tree skirt, for instance, reserve the mannequin’s torso for your favorite special-occasion tops, jackets, necklaces, or any other garments and jewelry you’re excited about showcasing for the festive season.
4. Gift Box Ornaments
For another cheap (or potentially free) holiday display idea, use your holiday gift wrapping materials as your window decorations: All you’ll really need for this display are festive gift boxes and thick ribbons. Hang your gift boxes in a staggered pattern to create some interest and drama, and use your usual display mannequins to showcase your seasonal garments. The effect will be even more streamlined and intentional if you color-coordinate your display garments to your gift boxes and ribbons. And you can always include other easy seasonal decorations, like trees and string lights, to add a touch more festivity to the display.
5. Candy Cane Theme
Just like the previous display idea, this window display is built with simple design elements: string lights and hanging ornaments. But this display takes the festivity a touch further with a candy-cane pattern. And if you can’t find patterned display stands to achieve the candy cane theme, you can achieve a similar effect by displaying quantities of red (and/or white) products.
6. Cozy Stockings
Using home-inspired design elements in your retail display automatically makes your store feel cozy and inviting. And who doesn’t want a little extra comfort during the holiday season? Take a cue from Anthropologie—which has totally mastered the unique-but-cozy holiday window display game—and drape clotheslines hung with socks and Santa stockings across your windows. Sounds too simple to be true, but somehow, it works. We think the key is going for volume, which makes this display look intentional. Any less than three clotheslines, and you run the risk of looking like you’re literally airing your dirty laundry.
7. Indoor Snowstorm
If you’re going for a really high-drama, low-lift window display, re-create this indoor snowstorm tableau from, once again, Anthropologie. The designer achieved this effect using just chicken wire, white garbage bags cut into strips, and paper tissue bags. She threaded LED string lights through the homemade snowballs to mimic snow’s signature sparkle.
8. Winter Birdhouses
For another unique and surprising holiday window display, head to your local gardening center, hardware store, or crafts store and pick up as many simple, cheap, wooden birdhouses as your budget will allow. Spray paint them white, silver, gold, or a combination, and mount them in clusters across your windows. This display reads more “winter” than strictly “holiday,” so you’ll be able to keep up this display until March—and get more bang for your buck.
9. Display Box Tree
Using display boxes to create a “tree” accomplishes a few things at once: It’s a dramatic and effective holiday window display, of course, but it’s also an opportunity to firmly showcase your seasonal wares. It’s a little like the mannequin tree idea in that sense, but this tree is suitable for virtually any kind of retail business, not just clothing stores: As long as you’re selling physical items, whether it’s shoes or homeware or office supplies, you can use this method to show off your items. Fill in any gaps with seasonal or festive objects, like pinecones, Christmas toys, and bundles of tinsel or string lights.
10. Shopping Bag Tree
For our next installment of “cheap, easy, but striking updates on a classic Christmas tree,” consider using the shopping bags you already own and arranging them in that triangular tree shape. Just add a color-coordinated star on top—either paper or otherwise—and you’re set.
11. Simple and Streamlined
While you may admire the epic holiday windows at major retailers like Harrods in London and Bloomingdale’s in New York, it’s safe to assume that as a small retailer, you don’t have the budget, staff, or time to re-create such ornate displays. And honestly, you don’t need to go so over the top in your own window display: Pared-down decorations can have a powerful visual effect in their own right. For instance, conical “trees” and spare, vertically hung garlands are all you need to create a modern holiday window display. And you’ll get it for a fraction of the price and manpower as the displays you’d see in midtown Manhattan.
12. Santa’s Reindeers
While we stand behind the value of a simple and streamlined window display, we do know that the holiday season can be a fun opportunity to tell a more involved story through decor. So if you have a little more time and resources on your hands, consider creating a full-on, festive scene that plays across your store’s windows. And it doesn’t get any more classically festive than Santa’s reindeers flying over a cityscape.
13. Wintery Woods
For another classically seasonal tableau, take a cue from NYC-based chocolate shop Mariebelle and create a winter woodland scene. Head to a gardening center or crafts store and pick up birch branches, faux snow, and woodland-appropriate flora and fauna like mushrooms, cardinals, and (of course) reindeer. This display looks striking even in the smallest display spaces.
14. Holiday Decals
If you’re really crunched for time and money, head to Etsy and let seasonal window decals do all the work for you. From hanging snowflakes to free-floating flakes to holiday greetings, you can find virtually any holiday-themed decals you could want, most of which cost well under $50. Just make sure you measure your windows and purchase appropriately sized decals.
15. Snowy Scene
This holiday window display takes some of the most characteristically “festive” elements of the displays we’ve highlighted above (candy canes, hanging baubles, faux snow, and fir trees) and combines them into what we can only call the Ultimate Holiday Tableau. You can find all of these design elements in a crafts store or gardening center—or, to make it even easier on yourself, you can order everything online. Here again, be sure you’re purchasing the correct measurements if you choose to shop online.
16. Gift-Wrapped Windows
If you have multiple windows, stretching a gift ribbon across your entire display is a neat but high-impact effect. Leave your ribbon as is, or fill in the gaps with color-coordinated snowflake decals, like an NYC-based Fresh store did one holiday season.
17. Shoe Tree
Because we can’t get enough of creating Christmas trees using the products you already have, here’s an idea for shoe or clothing store owners: Stack your shoeboxes in a tree shape, stud them with shoes, and wrap the whole thing in chic string lights. Sticking to a tonal color scheme, like an all-white display, keeps it chic, modern, and impactful.
18. Paper Garlands
Harken back to your elementary-school days and drape your windows in paper garlands, like Anthropologie did in one of their festive window displays. Here again, volume is key: An abundance of garlands creates drama and impact, while the negative space draws your eye to the display mannequins. Scattering white paper rings across the floor creates the illusion of a snowy ground to amplify the seasonal theme.
19. White Christmas
Black may be the chicest color, but white is a close second—and it’s definitely more seasonally appropriate. So when in doubt about your retail holiday window display ideas, opt for an all-white color scheme: Spread fake snow across the floor, hang up white display snowflakes and orbs, and dress your mannequins in white or neutral-toned clothing. The result is as elegant as it is festive.
5 Tips on Designing Your Retail Window Displays for Christmas
Still feeling lost about how to design an eye-catching window display on a shoestring budget? Consider the following tips from architect and interior designer Angie Lane on how to create a holiday window display with limited resources.
- Use your product (or whatever you have a lot of) as a majority of the display. There are tons of creative ways to do this. For instance, if you sell paint, cover inexpensive cardboard cones of various sizes and make a forest of paint chip trees.
- Use a backdrop. Boldly painted plywood or even laser-cut plexiglass can be inexpensive and impressive. Even a solid-colored curtain can help focus attention on the window display instead of the interior of the store. This is an involved backdrop, but you could easily achieve this effect with plywood.
- Color block. This is another simple way to have a unique holiday window. If it’s Christmas, have a red backdrop with only all your red items on display.
- Make a winter-themed window instead of a strictly “holiday” display. You’ll get more longevity out of the design.
- Pare your design way down and go simple. For example, display a plain backdrop with a shelf in the middle with the one very popular or unique item on it. Then use window paint to frame the item. It’s dramatic with minimal effort.
The Bottom Line on Holiday Retail Window Displays
Ultimately, you don’t need a huge budget or tons of time to create a high-impact window display. By leveraging just a few simple design elements—including the materials you already have lying around your store—you can build a truly dynamic display to draw in a whole new contingent of holiday shoppers. We hope this round-up has inspired to have your most creative (and lucrative) holiday season yet.