#RetailEXPO19: Bringing Macy's window displays up to date

Christmas definitely came early on day two of Retail Expo, as delegates were left enchanted hearing Macy's national director, window presentation, Roya Sullivan discuss the creation of some of the department store's most iconic holiday season displays.

Macy's has a long tradition creating must-see window scenes that have enthralled generations of shoppers - having introduced the first steam-powered displays in 1883, as well as the first animatronic showpieces - like its Red Star Circus display - in 1901. 

As tastes have changed, and technology has improved, Sullivan also revealed how the store was always keen to move with the times, for instance by incorporating greater use of LED screens to have moving backgrounds, as well as creating customer controlled 'gaming' windows, where hanging window characters (like last Christmas's 'Sunny' the snowman), can be moved around. 

She says: "These windows are our gift to our customers. We believe passionately in creating memories - what we call 'brand love', and I see no reason why the power of window displays will be just as strong for many more generations to come.

“I still receive handwritten letters each year, from parents thanking us for this season's Christmas displays. Often they're from adults who remember their own parents taking them to see the windows when they were children."

Although Macy's New York displays hark back to a long-held tradition, she explains how they still have to make commercial sense. Since she's been in-role, installations are now repurposed, and redistributed to its eight other flagship venues, including its Chicago store, which itself has 34 different ground floor windows.

"Increasingly our window displays must also tie-in with marketing campaigns, and these themes in the window also filtrate through to in-store displays too," she said. "Basically, the window displays have to be much better connected to the rest of the store."

A current trend, she adds, is to create windows that allow for Instagram/selfie moments to happen, and she says the store assiduously follows levels of postings tweets, as well as other social media shares the displays attract each year. 

At Macy's, planning for each year's Christmas windows starts as soon as the current ones are taken down. Sullivan has a team of 200 people, that start constructing the 'sets' in June and July, and which also spend three weeks installing them during November. 

While she accepts most other delegates won't have window requirements that compare in size or scale, she did have this piece of advice: "As long as you have good composition and good product, you can't go on far wrong.”

She says: “It's worth remembering that during the rest of the year, we produce very striking windows, but which are often very simple - sometimes just some mannequins and clever use of patterns and vinyl backgrounds. It's surprising how sophisticated you can make a space, even with limited budget."