The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show

March 2–4, 2025 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show
March 2—4 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

At a time when technology has shortened consumers’ attention spans and social media gives consumers unlimited access to information, retail window displays must look beyond the static designs of the past to present a more engaging, storytelling visual experience, New York Institute of Technology professor Anne Kong said during IHA’s Connect FALL virtual event. 

Window displays continue to project an important first impression of a store for walk-in shoppers, Kong said in a session entitled “Winning Visual Clicks.” Window display techniques that tell a story, evoke emotion and create goodwill attract and invite today’s consumers, Kong said.  


She detailed several examples of effective window display storytelling:  

  • Sustainability Story: Using fixturing, furnishings and materials that are reclaimed; the store’s beliefs, character and merchandise “are one.” 
  • Awareness Story: Connecting viewers to a cause using a larger scene with details and hidden moments to showcase merchandise. 
  • Real Life Story: Showcases a notable celebrity, local chef or guest as a focal point of the design. 
  • Dimentionalized Imagery: Using graphics and imagery to set the stage, pulling design elements from the imagery into the foreground design. 
  • True Color Story: Locking in the viewer with a monochromatic color story. 
  • Contrast: Using contrasting colors to differentiate the background from the products. 
  • Pattern Texture Repetition: Presenting a wall full of the same type of pattern or texture, such as a wall filled with hanging cutting boards of different shapes and wood grains. 
  • Create Artforms: Turing a window installation into a presentation of art through sculpture or some other form. 
  • Alien Takeover: Using products to build figures and objects to create a unique story. 
  • Arts/Crafts Story: Incorporating hand-crafted design, such as hand-knitted pieces, to create a display; Kong suggested Etsy as a resource for these items.  
  • Seasonal Story: Using seasonal flowers, plants or holiday elements to design the space. 


Props and human factors are important considerations, Kong noted. Props, she said, can add authenticity to a scene; if special effects or techniques aren’t used, props can transport the consumer. The human factor, Kong added, refers to people, movement or props that take austerity away from the set and make it more welcoming. 

Easy technologies that can be incorporated include simple rotational motors, LED and neon lighting and interactivity through buttons and QR codes, Kong stated. QR codes, which have regained popularity during the pandemic, can be used to help consumers learn more about products, take surveys and receive discounts. Kong added it can be helpful to place QR codes on the floor because shopper sightlines have shifted downward with consumers spending more time looking at mobile phones. 

Kong said most stores change their windows every two weeks, with stores in high-traffic areas changing every week. A partial change, such as swapping out a product for one in a different color, is a cost- and time-effective way to alter a window without a full-scale overhaul. 

When it comes to branding, Kong noted it is important to explore stories that support brand identity while connecting to other things, such as local factors and positive social causes. It is exciting to see a store experiment with different approaches, she added.