Store windows used to be a key mechanism in any retailer’s toolbox, from communicating brand messages to aiding product discovery to acquiring passing customers. Today, however, most window-shopping happens via the screens in consumers’ pockets. If shoppers do venture out on to the high street, they usually already have a set idea of where they’re going and what they’re getting. Organically grabbing someone’s attention with a static display is nigh impossible in the age of click-and-collect. As a result many businesses are questioning the value of traditional storefronts and the way merchandising works in an era where hyper-rich media sets an impossible benchmark for visual-led product presentations. Here are three brands that have been exploring how to work without window displays in 2019.


Walk-in windows trump walk-up windows

The new Bjarke Ingels-designed Galeries Lafayette Champs Élysées project is one of the retail group’s most high-profile bets in its long-term plan to update its image and reel in Gen Y and Gen Z consumers. On paper, the incentives for this new target audience are bold: a cadre of more than 100 on-demand hypebeast ‘personal stylists,’ an entire floor dedicated to niche luxe that goes from Àcheval Pampa to Zizi Donohoe and a Jacquemus-penned café.

Tellingly, however, Galeries Lafayette felt secure in choosing to retrofit the property that didn’t have any curb-side presence. Indeed, one of the most impressive feats of this project is the way in which BIG solved the case of the window displays in a windowless building – the Art Deco mammoth was a bank in an earlier life. A handful of box-ins touring around the second-floor mezzanine serve as a rotating exhibition space for a guest fashion designer – it’s the Lafayette version of a museum exhibition. Sometimes there’s heavy product presence, but sometimes, just a comically large straw bag in the middle of a comically large straw-walled box suffices. It might look like Instagram bait on the surface – and it does fulfil that function generously – but this ingenious device actually fulfils the dream of many window-display designers: to give shoppers the chance to walk inside the dream world they created.

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Narrative doesn’t respect boundaries

Despite what its name might suggest, JNBYHOME’s Maker’s Grocery Store is actually a textile and daily objects shop. The challenge – and reason behind the name’s misdirection – was the need to revive a category that often suffers from a lack of engaging narrative. Designed by Greyoffice, the shopping-mall spot imagines a space where an artisanal manufacturer can work and live, and thus is divided between a front yard, a maker’s studio, a bedroom and a wardrobe.

None of this is literal, of course – and that subtlety is what makes the project work. The main grocery space features floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves used for both display and storage. From that yellow overload, the bedroom and wardrobe space feature subdued shades of white and simple materials, in order to let the spotlight be on the linen and pajama collections.

Central to this conceit is the way the designers removed any sense of definitive threshold between the store and its host property. The front yard is covered in floor-to-wall white tiles, with towels and display boxes informally hung – it gives the impression of being a traditional streetside grocery store. ‘Altogether, the yard space breaks the conventional window-display rule of the typical store front in an indoor shopping mall, and transforms it into a more open and public space, like the shops on the streets,’ explains Greyoffice founder Ian Wang.

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Modesty is a major attention grabber

Visitors to the The Republique Store in Chengdu will find that the ground-floor windows have been mysteriously bricked over. After analyzing the shop’s location, creating a ‘blinded’ façade was a very conscious choice from Archetype, the studio behind the project. ‘The fast pace of urban renewal in Chengdu coincided with a rapid emergence of commercial spaces, resulting in complex surroundings with a blurry and scattered commercial image,’ says founder Louis Liao. This is how The Republique Store manages to stand out in the shopping mall, both in terms of its looks and its offerings. ‘It’s a multi-brand boutique that doesn’t aim to reach a mass audience, but rather Chengdu’s smaller-yet-growing fashion-forward consumers interested in (local) independent brands,’ explains Liao.

For this project, Archetype abandoned traditional visual merchandising and with it, the excessive promotion of goods in the shop window. A two-storey-high curved red wall leads shoppers into the space that from the outside only allows limited views in. Inside, they experience an intimate and calm atmosphere, which is the result of light seeping in through the gaps between the bricks making up the store’s shop windows and a quite restrained approach to product presentation.

Read more here.

We've compiled a collection of trend roundups that reflect on this year in retail. Find them all here.