Keep window displays fresh and interesting Every retail store is different from the next, but there is one feature they all have in common: the front display window. Trying to decide which merchandise and decor should be featured every week in the window is a challenge. Even the most seasoned retailer can be overwhelmed by the daily tasks of running a business. In my 16 years in visual display, I have found that shop owners would rather get assistance from an expert than wear yet another hat to develop creative solutions for another retail dilemma -- the window.

Shop the competition When considering window displays, it is fine to shop the competition as long as you don't imitate it. All too often, similar stores look too similar. Mimicking the most successful retailer's look at any given moment is an easy ride. It's a good idea to look at what your competition is doing -- with its window, merchandising and signage -- and try to be different. Don't be afraid to take an independent stance. Customers will appreciate your uniqueness and your fresh look. For instance, instead of red dresses for Valentine's Day, try purple or black. Don't be predictable!

Keep it simple A few large centerpiece items are more appealing than a cluttered look. For instance, a large urn with branches, an easel with a sign, a bicycle or a showy chair borrowed from a nearby antique store make for strong focal points. If you do borrow something from a local antique shop, be careful to place it so the sun will not fade it.

If you figure that your customer will walk or drive by every week, then rotate a small portion of your stock to keep your look new and different. When rotating merchandise in the window, also change the centerpiece item, or move it to a different position. The perception will change, thus getting a passer-by to look twice.

Theme the window There are a number of things to consider when deciding on a theme for the window display. What season is it? What color is new? For instance, try using all gray items for one display and all white the next time. The repetition game is a helpful tool. Put the same blazer with different bottoms: a short skirt, a long skirt, a pair of pants. This shows customers on an intellectual level that the items are practical. Also use the repetition game with an array of colors, such as a rainbow of polo shirts, dishes or towels. The customers can't decide which one they want.

Be controversial. Try focusing on what's in the news. Be thought-provoking. Be funny. Just be there! Passers-by will appreciate the entertainment. Soon, they will stop, look, think, chuckle and come in, even just to say a kind word.

Don't forget the basics The window glass, inside and out, must be crystal clean. The platform should be vacuumed daily and the light bulbs replaced regularly. Some shopkeepers have all the bulbs changed monthly, even when the lights are not burned out, to avoid having a blown bulb that's hard to reach. Those older bulbs get rotated into the store so they are not wasted.

Promote local events Some stores feature a section for community charitable events. Oftentimes, invitations or posters are available from the organization. Putting these types of posters in the window makes the community feel like the store owner is a team player. It's a nice reflection on your business to "give back" a little.