Being distinctive and unmistakable in your staging
Interview with Wolfram Liebhardt, Deco-Woerner Assistant Art Director at Woerner in Leingarten near Stuttgart.
Shop windows are the calling card of a store. How do you like our pedestrian zones?
Unfortunately, more and more small and individual stores are becoming extinct and replaced by big chain stores. I think that’s a shame, because it drastically changes the face of a pedestrian zone and creates a type of “monoculture“. The store leases downtown have often become too expensive for privately owned stores or small designer labels. Many shopping districts have significantly lost their appeal and thus also their buying power. Many large chain stores are striving for individuality and all but copy the uniqueness of different stores, which were still around in our shopping districts 20 years ago. Cities, whose store variety is still intact, like the town of Ludwigsburg for instance prove that an attractive window display can still be justified in the future.
Every six months you create catalogs with new collections for decorating. What are the current trends for shop windows?
The shop window needs to mirror the face of the company. More and more of our customers are looking for something special for a moderate price. Since the range of products often does not differ significantly from that of the competition, it’s particularly important to be distinctive and unmistakable in your staging. It is noticeable that the topic of “Sustainability and Reusability” and also the question of storage have played an ever increasing role in the customer’s purchase decision for decoration items. The more flexible the application is, the more the customer is willing to buy premium and expensive decorations.
Percentage signs and the “Sale“ sign are perennial hits. Is that actually still an eye catcher? And are consumers not already annoyed about this Anglicism?
No, that is not how I see it, because “Sale“ – sales are more and more important to the customer who shops price-consciously and still wants to get high quality products for a fair price. The presentation of reduced price merchandise truly is and will always be an important part of Visual Merchandizing.
Where do you put the large decoration units at the end of a sales promotion? Can you also rent or store mannequins, Santa figures or palm trees and lounge chairs?
The possibility to lease decorations does exist, but is actually not profitable for the customer, since the rental price after some time does not differ much from the purchasing price. If at all, it might be profitable for trade fairs and sales promotions at short-notice. Generally, you purchase the merchandise and store it, since most items can be used again. In the future we will pay special attention to making this possible. Most items, like for example a palm tree or a Santa Claus can be easily placed in storage. With some articles though, it is a space problem. You certainly should consider this when you purchase items. There are items that can be stored and also save space.
Decorations from a mail order company are cheaper than products made to specification. How high is the risk of the store next door ordering the same items and placing them in its shop windows? Can I also order exclusively from you for a specific department?
We have a main catalog, which contains all your basics, and we have an exclusive catalog. Our selected customers receive this one significantly earlier, either delivered by our sales representatives or mailed by post. Our catalog contains large, high quality and exclusive decoration articles as well as decoration suggestions, but also color-and material trends. If the customer has their own ideas and has not found what they are looking for, we are also able to realize their individual wishes with the help of our creative team and purchasing department.
Copying the competition – this is not a good way of creating trendy shop windows. Where do you get good ideas?
My colleagues and I travel the urban centers of the world, like New York, London or Paris. Trends, which will catch on in Visual Merchandizing in the upcoming season, can be seen early there. Architecture, art or product design, inspire us to create new decoration items.
You don’t have to do it all by yourself. How do you find a good external shop window designer and how much does it cost?
We have a pool of freelance designers. Just ask us, and we will gladly provide you with the names of qualified contacts in your area. Prices vary strongly, depending on the size and type of decorations, which means I cannot answer this in one simple sentence. This should be worked out in a personal meeting.
Technology is coming to the shop window. Will large flat screens and projections on the window some day replace the constantly new window decorations?
Light and projection are certainly a big topic in Event Technology, but they will not replace decoration since - especially in the textile sector – designers, who can individually and professionally decorate the products on mannequins or in display cases, are still very much needed. And this is generally done best in a shop window. Especially during the Christmas season emotional and first class staging is essential. A projection can merely provide a supportive function, but can by no means replace it.
Which store or which location would you like to decorate some day? And what would this look like?
I could imagine designing a concept for Top Shop in London for Christmas. I like the philosophy of the store concept, to unite the young and the old, new and second hand items in one house. That’s modern, unconventional and exciting. The realization would certainly combine trash, tradition and glamour, meaning a cross over of everything.
At any rate, it would be unusual and individual just like something you would expect from this house.
is a trained shop window designer, worked as a stage designer at the Altes Schauspielhaus in Stuttgart, successfully completed continuing education to become a state-certified commercial designer in Visual Merchandizing. After graduating from technical college, continued his education and completed his Master’s Degree in Multimedia Design. Held miscellaneous positions in advertising, since 2005 Assistant Art Director at Woerner in Leingarten near Stuttgart.
Interview: René Schellbach,