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VM basics: Valentine's Day

French Sole

Valentine’s Day has conflicted with Chinese New Year for the past three years, and this year it misses CNY by less than a week (Thurs 19th of Feb is the first day of CNY). This makes Valentine’s Day a low-key event in Asian retail where CNY takes prominence because of its traditional clothes-purchasing role in the Asian calendar. Instead Asian stores will celebrate Chinese Valentine’s Day on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar: the Double Seventh Festival, falls this year on 20 August.

But in London Valentine’s Day brings a welcome relief from the early spring windows. The challenge is to make VM installations slightly humorous and affectionate, much like the spirit of sending and receiving a Valentine’s card.

Shoe store French Sole has a classic in-store display: a red rose-strewn heart-shaped wreath propped against a miniature spiral staircase is the focus. Piles of shoe-boxes form a backdrop to the red and red-edged ballet flats in which French Sole specialises. This is classy and tasteful, and very much in keeping with the simplicity of the brand.


In a simple-to-install Valentine’s Day celebration a few years ago, MCM used these velvet rope hearts, each mounted on a simple, chromed-base, which allowed in-store accessories to be perched at the base. This was a simple and effective low-cost response to the need to recognize 14 February as Valentine’s Day. Created by Blue Mount International, these were unpacked and installed by store staff for just a week before the 14th in MCM’s Hong Kong stores.

Still in Hong Kong, Italian jewellery brand Pianegonda created a neat display based on a mix of white cubes with the occasional red heart, the word ‘love,’ or a red satin ribbon, a few years ago. The modular box format allowed variations for each display. With each pile of precisely arranged boxes draped with necklaces and bracelets, all were displayed on an ochre plinth in the eye-level windows.

Still with hearts, stationery store Caroline Gardner, in London’s Marylebone High Street, has added a nice touch with a pink broken-line graphic on the window, in front of a heart-shaped foam-board covered in Valentine’s cards. The graphic line nicely frames the shaggy, card-covered heart. The more permanent display of wooden swings, each seat brightly painted, allows a display of associated heart-decorated gift merchandise. It’s good to see the promotion of relatively inexpensive stationery ramped up with the addition of higher-priced merchandise, increasing the value of the window. Rather as for a catalogue page, there is little point in promoting only low-value merchandise when the same valuable space could be used for higher-priced goods.


As usual, the flagship of the stationery store Paperchase has a lovely, slightly humorous window nicely linking the ‘Twining’-tea box, famed for its Earl Grey blend, with the imminent movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ due for a ‘romantic’ UK release on Valentine’s Day. A plethora of large hearts, each with tea-bag texture graphic across the front and tea-bag string, and three red neon hearts form three columns between the ‘Twining’s’ boxes. The Paperchase store graphic appears at the top of each box.


The larger hearts support heart-related merchandise, including notebooks, cards, and stationery containers. The caption ‘teas me’ neatly refers as a phonetic to the movies S&M content; to the tease that Valentine’s cards can be; and tea, hence the use of the black, gold striped box. Classic VM with a perfect example of the gentle humour that good VM does well, and reminiscent of the phonetic or alliterative rhyming element (Roses are red, violets are blue …), which is also part of Valentine’s Day.


Even lovely home store Skandium is having a ‘Valentines Day moment’ with a heart at the beginning of the window graphic ‘with love for Valentines Day’ and a window dressed with a red throw and a red cushion amidst the neutral-coloured, mid-century modern classics.


Moving on slightly from the use of hearts, despite a heart-shaped mirror, these large repeated graphic roses, Andy Warhol style, make a wonderful wallpaper for the corner window of home store Dwell. The crimson ground adds the only colour in a display of neutral furniture and accessories and it expensively makes the whole very eye-catching.


I loved this understated, off the cuff, touch at Heals: on the window sill in front of the home textiles section, six 3D hearts, looking almost like dart flights, are placed in the window.


So cool, so off the cuff, they are almost hiding in plain sight.


Here is the classic instant Valentine’s day window, seen here this year at children’s shoe store Papadouelli. Instructions: take one sheet of red tissue paper. Fold in to many thicknesses. Fold in half. Cut half a heart shape starting and finishing along the fold. Unfold. Scatter the hearts across a window. This is the fastest way of creating a Valentines’ Day window that can be returned to Spring in a moment on 15 February. This idea always charms.



• Valentine’s Day in the West is 14 February. Valentine’s Day in China (the Double Seventh Festival) varies as it is seven days and seven months after Chinese New Year.

• Focus on hearts, flowers, and remember rhymes if possible.

• Red and pink dominate the colour palette for props and merchandise.

• In a variation of Christmas, packaging printed with a heart, or the word love, or tied with a red bow, all suggest celebration, especially for gift merchandise including accessories, jewellery, and home merchandise.

• Add higher-priced merchandise to the greeting card display, to encourage ‘selling-up.’

• A colour-themed, heart-shaped wreath is easily constructed and makes a great centre-piece for a classic display.

• Folded tissue paper cut in to hearts and scattered over merchandise is a quick and always effective low-cost VM touch.

• Five or six hearts, be they paper, card, 3-D, or wood, casually placed at the edge of the window as a secret afterthought lends a ‘it is not forgotten’ touch to a display.