Best practices for dance retailers are evolving during the pandemic, but window displays still play an important role for brick-and-mortar stores.
It’s no surprise that the pandemic has changed the way consumers shop. More shoppers are taking advantage of online buying, and contactless shopping procedures, such as curbside pickup, are popular, even as stores reopen. Nevertheless, creative front-window displays remain an important merchandising tool for dance retailers, despite reduced foot traffic.
A fresh display with eye-catching props and an uplifting message is an easy way to show your customers that, yes, you are still in business—and you still need their support. Not only that, a well-thought-out display will send the message that you care about your customers and the surrounding community.
Here, we share some inspiring ways storeowners have spruced up their store windows to reflect these changes. What’s more, all of the ideas require little to no cost—a boon to small business owners who are stretched thin right now.
Create Seasonal Reminders of Beloved Celebrations
When the shutdown struck in mid-March, many businesses were decorated with green shamrocks for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday, including the front window at Dancewares in Lincoln, NE. “March was anything but lucky this year,” says owner Marcia Kirk. To help improve the mood of her customers, and for her own sanity, she updated her windows with a cheerful spring display of pastel dancewear, a tutu-clad bunny and colorful Easter eggs even though she was not expecting regular in-store traffic.
Kirk also made her storefront interactive and safe by placing bunny-themed bun kits on a table in the front of the store. “Until the pandemic, I had been giving the bunny buns to customers, free with purchase over some amount,” says Kirk. “The Saturday before Easter I had quite a few left. I decided to let people just drive up and help themselves, a small thing to do to thank my customers.”
Share a Positive Message
Retailers are using their windows to spread messages of hope and healing. Ruthena Fink, owner of Grand Jeté in St. Paul, MN, and her associate, Lisa Gray, made a “Hearts of Hope” display using large paper cutouts. “Lisa created a cost-effective display, using colored paper the store already had in stock and cutting each of the hearts by hand in an assortment of sizes and colors,” says Fink. They also added colorful ballet skirts and dancewear to brighten up the window. “It was important to show that Grand Jeté cares about and supports the health-care workers fighting COVID as well as other frontline workers,” says Fink.
Ginger Knapp also decorated her store window with paper hearts during the shutdown. Knapp is the owner of Blades to Ballet in Rochester, MN, which she remodeled during the time the store was closed and rebranded two months after its reopening, changing its name to Ama La Vita Boutique. Knapp hung the hearts in the early weeks of the pandemic. “A lot of people were putting hearts in their windows,” she says. “It was so therapeutic to cut them all out and hang them up. We spent a whole Saturday doing that, and we ended up covering the entire window.”
Even though the shop was closed, people driving by noticed the hearts, and the message they sent was loud and clear: We’re still in this together. “It made me feel part of the community,” Knapp says. “That’s why we did it.”
Drive Traffic to Your Online Shopping
When the lockdown first started in March, Holly Bertucci quickly added e-commerce to her website so people could still shop from The Dance Bag in Modesto, CA—online. To advertise this, she printed out a large black-and-white banner with the web address and displayed it in her store windows. Behind the banner, she added six mannequins dressed in colorful tulle skirts with ribbon tops.
Even though pedestrian traffic in Modesto plummeted, and, even now, it’s still slow, Bertucci says the updated window display has been essential to marketing during the pandemic. “Because people were not out and about, we added the sign to our window and took pictures for social media,” she says. “It was important to me to show people we still had a brick-and-mortar business to support, and that they could support us online. Our hope was that they would shop online with us and not Amazon and other discount sites.”
Add Interactive Elements to Engage Customers
When Beth Misek, owner of Attitudes Dancewear, Etc. in Wichita, KS, reopened last spring, she added fun interactive markings on the floor to help customers practice social distancing. However, Misek noticed that most of her customers were choosing curbside pickup service, so she decided to move the interactive displays to her front windows where they would be seen by customers waiting for their orders.
Using poster board and neon paint markers, Misek and her staff created fun challenges for customers to try while they waited outside. For example, one window featured a weekly dance word-scramble, while another asked dancers to make a TikTok video. Misek also posted the names of each surrounding studio in a heart and encouraged dancers to take a selfie with it. “It was a way to keep dancers engaged, to give the studios support and keep Attitudes Dancewear in people’s minds,” she says. Most important, Misek wanted her displays to inspire hope. “I didn’t want our message to be ‘Buy this,’” she says. “People need to hear words of hope more than how they can spend their money.”
Libby Basile is a former editor in chief of Dance Retailer News. She reports regularly on visual merchandising, retail strategy and store design.