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VM Basics: Ringing the changes at Browns keeps windows fresh

One of the challenges of visual merchandising is to make a given fixture, usually immovable and often in a window, look continually new and fresh. Browns, the premium multi-brand retailer in London’s South Molton Street, is a good example of best practice.

The store has a set of three glass shelves in one of its shallow, closed-back windows, adjacent to the door. The glass shelves are nicely spaced in order to display accessories, but merely changing the merchandise isn’t quite enough to emphasize the window theme. Instead Browns uses graphics to link the shelves to the major display theme, as here in the Christmas windows with a bespoke graphic of a muffin, the colour nicely linking to the colours of the handbag and the boots.

For the same Christmas window theme, the shelf above the boots features another handbag and a pair of jewel-buckled ballet flats. Behind the merchandise is a graphic of a top-view of a muffin, topped with the ‘B’ for Browns, which is increasingly becoming a signature for the brand.

Here are the three glass shelves set in to the context of the entire Christmas window. Imagine the window without the shelf graphic: OK, but perhaps a little dull. The simple use of a graphic underlines the theme, which included some beautiful Christmas decorations, classic candy-canes, and the theme of time with a Christmas countdown.

Moving backwards in time the Halloween windows included stylised graphics of three black birdcages above the glass shelves, the orange/black theme of Halloween created by the orange merchandise.

The shelf graphics appear very fine and elegant, befitting the merchandise, in comparison to the powerful attention-grabbing cat’s face to the right of the door. The birds graphic over the door nicely links the two windows: birds escaping from their cages, perhaps alarmed by the sight of the cat.

More recently, Brown’s travel-themed window has used graphics of stylised travel posters as inspiration for the glass shelf graphics. More shelves have been created using the backdrop in the main window, where Brown’s logo-embossed suitcases support a series of accessories. Notice how the time clock has been retained too, suggesting it’s time to travel? Fashion, and therefore VM, is all about time, so it is a relevant link.

With the quilted background, redolent of first-class carriage seats, the pastel colours of the brass-fitted suitcases add a little complexity without detracting from the theme. A small detail that contributes to the considered quality of the window and sets Browns apart from a regular department store or boutique, where the staff might have been content to just place merchandise on the shelves and leave it. Retail is detail, and ‘ringing the changes’ is part of that.