The Communication of Window Displays
‘Windows reveal the soul of the store’ (Portas, 1999: 41). Every store has its own concept that characterizes each display, varying from theatre, drama or in the case of Armani Exchange minimalism. Well-dressed windows are undoubtedly, a dynamic form of advertising for products reflecting the stores’ brand image.
This essay seeks to evaluate how A|X Armani Exchange’s window displays communicate to spectators with the use of various resources. Armani Exchange is one of the sub-brands under the parental brand of Giorgio Armani. The use of colour, lighting, props and graphics can capture interest, indicating the foundation of any decent display whose aim is to get people off the street. Windows are used as a selling device promoting products. They also mirror what the store is about, bringing pleasure to the eye. A stores’ window is effectual if it tempts customers who will want and be able to purchase the products offered, conveying quality, style and pricing (Portas, 2007).
Moreover, windows can lure someone in a shop due to psychological factors. Brand founders such as Armani and Dior, give their own unique identity on their products and are therefore based on persona. As an online source says ‘Armani Exchange has become one of the most dynamic collections with its own unique identity, as well as an ever-growing base of young customers’ (www.ameinfo.com/192218.html). City life is emitted through its concept of sexy, chic and stalwart garments. Hence, it can be said that quality along with brand loyalty comes before the cost. Windows work on the principle “first impression is the best impression”, implying that only a few seconds are needed for a display to “speak” to a passer-by and get him/her inside a store. Portas asserts that ‘visual merchandising is the art and science of silent selling, bringing product, environment and space into one stimulating and engaging display to encourage sale’ (Drapers, October 29: 34). This is shown by the power of Armani Exchange’s logo -with grey background and white letters signifying practicality, neutrality but also timelessness- which is becoming more and more recognisable.
Furthermore, Armani Exchange’s target customers are both independent male and female who have their own style, belonging in the age group of 16-35. It is more accessible to the bourgeoisie, who want a taste of the luxurious brand. Given that prices are lower than the rest of the Armani sub-brands, the apparel is more inclusive to the public. This stores’ clientele may work as managers, interns or may even be students living in East London. Additionally, they may go out for a drink, coffee or shopping at least once a week, or read magazines like Vogue. Other stores they visit include Zara and Benetton. What is more CPI is escalating; competition is astonishingly high while consumer spending started to fall as September figures show because of pessimism (www.guardian.co.uk, 2010). As a result, retail sales are expected to fall in the following months, along with a rise in VAT.
Armani Exchange windows’ are open-back; implying there is ‘no back wall’ (Morgan: 44). The striptease effect is clear as we can see the internal displays emphasizing the focal point through the space between the mannequins, creating a more intense visual impact, which is representative of the merchandise of the store. A|X shows the garment’s prices at the bottom of the windowpane. Lighting from the ceiling and floor is ambient acting as a catalyst for the area (www.infostore.gr. 2010), as Figure 1 shows:
Figure 1: The window shows A|X Armani Exchange’s front window in Regent Str. London, October 19, 2010
Source: Kaisidi, 2010
For autumn/winter 2010, Armani Exchange trails a repetition of dark shades evoking a monochromatic colour scheme exerting sophistication and a clean look, which are pleasing to the eye. Materials like leather and fur with metallic details indicate luxury mixed with a touch of mystery, illustrating an intellectual and confident appearance. However silver and gold details on the garments complement the black shades, making the pieces more youthful. A downside of open windows is that high-priced items showcased can be tampered if somebody wishes to feel the fabric, so they are trickier to dress. Besides that another negative aspect is that windows are not as creative since there are fewer props. Hence there is no story to tell. Silhouettes are simple yet authoritative and influential.
Effective windows can ‘seduce’ (Portas, 2007: 54) you to purchase something you did not intend to. Buying even a small item, one satisfies a need, a want to feel more contented and self-confident. Also, what you wear is what defines you, reflecting your personality- as implied by Berger (1972). Windows can sway someone into investing in a garment that will make them enviable and glamorous at the same time. ‘The power to spent money is the power to live’ (Berger, 1972: 143), implying that each person interprets the world differently- the same applies in window displays.
Armani Exchange has a very clean approach of “less is more” by not overloading its windows together with being “strong and simple” emphasizing the brand’s power (http://ezinearticles.com, 2010). Furthermore, by following the “fresh is best” principle in accordance with Berger (1972), they renew their displays every week thus regular customers find new stock in every visit. Still though, A|X receives deliveries every 3-4 days so that monotony is avoided. For that reason, if a jacket is received in the middle of the week, it will be put on display on that day.
Visual merchandising makes ideas come alive whose purpose is to sell commodities through visualization, as induced by Clements (2010). Armani Exchange wants its customers to experience the brand with the aid of visuals. Particularly the three-dimensional sightline placed parallel with the double doors in the Regent Street shop ‘gives energy’ (Portas, 1999: 102), as shown by the image below.
Figure 2: The window portrays a 3D advert for A|X sunglasses in London, October 21, 2010
Source: Kaisidi, 2010
Christmas windows however, ought to be more interesting and intriguing. Armani Exchange Christmas decoration is ruled by special effects lighting and radiation. Oval rings are beaming light that changes colour every few seconds; a different look tried by A|X. The rings are symmetrically placed next to each other, as it is clearly illustrated in the following picture:
Figure 3: The window illustrates A|X Christmas décor in London, November 20, 2010
Source: Kaisidi, 2010
Despite having a sale, windows were not unattained (Portas, 1999), since signage advertising the offers are placed. What is more, it urges spectators to celebrate style with the vinyl on the windows’ glass, exploiting psychological factors to lure in onlookers. After questioning 40 citizens, calculations show that 46% found the displays of A|X attractive, although 8% felt that it did not stand out.
The effect of these circles illustrates gravity, communicating with the pavement (Portas, Mary Queen of shops-Blinkz DVD). They work as pause points as they can be seen from afar, making the passers stop and browse the new collection. The aesthetic balance of the store emphasizes how the power of light can visually transform a space. One could argue that the density of the garments in Armani Exchange’s windows is just enough to fill the space available given add-ons such as bags and wallets. This is shown with Figure 4:
Figure 4: The window shows A|X latest collection 3 weeks before Christmas in London, December 3, 2010
Source: Kaisidi, 2010
Mannequins are said to be a mighty tool, forming the scene of a display. In A|X, mannequins are golden and headless in order to appeal to a wider audience (Pegler, 2008). The mannequins’ outfits offer a possible wearable suggestion in which one could walk out of the store with having a feeling of fulfilment. Mannequins are front facing, but the passers can observe all the angles, as suggested by Morgan.
To conclude, window displays need to clearly define the identity of a store. A|X ‘serves as the ultimate testimony to the power of the brand’ (Roll, 2010). The visual placement of the store is rather simplistic so people may think it is too plain. Equally, others who are fond of minimalism obtain a positive vibe for the specific windows, which are a compelling representation of the brand ethos. A|X has an identifiable and cohesive commercial image, which triggers the clients’ interest in conjunction with facilitating communication. All in all, Armani Exchange window displays are effective for their target customers, as they communicate their minimalistic message emitting an aesthetic purity of warmth and luxury. According to G.U Journal of Science there has not been significant empirical evidence regarding the effect of window displays on consumers’ shopping attitudes’ (2007: 33).