Teen idols, apps: New York store windows want to 'retailtain' you

Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:35am EST
 
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By Marina Lopes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Frosted fairies swoop between snow-covered trees as they guide a young boy from his bed to a whimsical forest with reindeer, angels and holiday magic.

It's not a trailer for a Disney release. It's the Macy's flagship store in New York City, where six display windows have been transformed into an animated story.

Paul Olszewski works year-round with a team of 100 full- and part-time animators, hair stylists, makeup artists, composers, musicians and copywriters to create the mechanical scenes.

"It's like putting on a Broadway show," says the 47-year-old designer. "You're working with different pieces and different departments, but it all comes together on opening night" - usually the week before Thanksgiving.

The window displays are the secret weapon of brick-and-mortar retailers, luring shoppers away from their computers at a time when ecommerce is more popular than ever. The cost for holiday displays is a tiny fraction of what retailers spend on television ads and other marketing, but they boost store traffic and generate buzz.

While retailers in cities across the United States also deck themselves out for the season, none put on a bigger show than New York's storekeepers, who use everything from social media to 3-D projections that spill onto the facades of buildings to provide "retailtainment."

And they keep upping the ante. In 2011, Barney's invited pop sensation Lady Gaga to unveil its holiday windows. This year Fifth Harmony, a sugary-sweet all-girl band, did the honors for Lord & Taylor. They could barely be heard above the shrieks of teenage girls, many drawn to the store for the first time by their celebrity idols.

At Bergdorf Goodman's, near the Plaza Hotel, acrobats tethered to guy-wires "flew" out fourth-floor windows, sprinkling the crowd with glitter confetti as they made their way to the ground.   Continued...

 
Pedestrians stop to look at holiday window displays at Macy's flagship store in New York, November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson