New York City, July 2009. Ten months after the recession hit the city, the retail landscape had drastically changed. Legendary stores closed down, leaving prime locations empty. World-renowned brands filed for bankrupcy or came very close…

closing...

In those times of economic turmoil, more than ever, luxury brands need to reassure their loyal customers, make them believe that the money they spend on their fine goods is not just futile shopping. It is an investment. And as for their new, potential customers, those who aspire to live like the “old money” wealthy, the rich and famous, they need to tell them that by buying their goods they have made the right choice, they are on their way of having a piece of that fabulous lifestyle they aspire to…

In summer 2009, prestigious brands dressed their Madison Avenue store windows to “spell out” Heritage and authenticity in order to reassure their customers and tell them that when they buy their products, they are not merely shopping, they are investing in real values.

A few beautifully executed examples:

1. Hermès

The ultimate in French luxury since 1837, clearly displays its origins, but with a wink…They show their saddle-making origins, combined with original artwork of horses…

…and integrating iconic, much sought after products or objects of desire such as the Birkin…

an immaculate white Birkin bag...

…while reminding the customer of all the dedicated workmanship it all requires, by adding “raw” and unformed pieces of leather.

And on the storefront walls and on top of the building, they always show where all comes from…

...proud to be French

So what are they saying?

  • We are a French company that has been around for over 170 years and we are proud of what we do
  • We started by making saddles and we still produce the finest, using traditional techniques
  • We apply the same dedication to excellence and fine craftsmanship to everything we do
  • We support culture, artists and use our store windows to display their work and get the (right) public to know them without having to go to a gallery or a museum
  • …so dear customers, at Hermès you are not merely shopping. You are investing in a sure value, a piece of history,  in a brand that is everlasting and is the ultimate in French elegance.

2. Valentino

Valentino Garavani, founder of the eponymous couture brand retired in 2008. In the 45 years he ran his couture house, Valentino had become the synonym of Italian elegance and had built a worldwide base of very loyal customers. His clothes had always been timelessly chic but what had made a piece immediately recognisable was its unique shade of red – the Valentino Red.

Pizzoli/Getty

In order to reassure the loyal customers that in spite of the Master leaving, the Valentino Madison Avenue store windows show that his spirit remains and that the style, the elegance and the Red are here to stay.

different dresses, same red...

The tinted glass boxes bring a modern, tongue in cheek element to the elegance. Those boxes play a game of hide and seek by showing a pair of red pumps..then hiding them…or suddenly you see a red lobster…

So what are they telling us?

  • Even though Valentino has retired, his touch, his spirit remain at the heart of the brand
  • Red has made us immediately recognisable thanks to you, dear customer. You like it and we will stick to making clothes and accessories in this color that you love
  • Elegance and refinement are still what we do, but we are modern
  • We love to play hide and seek and we have a sense of humor, like you
  • In those times of gloom, beat the blues by being flamboyant, wear red!
  • Perpetrate a tradition started by the most elegant women, wear Valentino Red!

What can brands learn from this?

  • Use your store windows to express your values. No matter how good your campaign is don’t just replicate it but surprise and titillate your customers’ curiosity by telling them a story
  • Show your brand values in a passionate way by being really emotional, fun, quirky, uncomplicated
  • Integrate a heritage component to tell your customers that your brand is the right choice, especially in hard times and that you will be there for them, no matter what.

And a few more great examples…

Tom Ford- the splendor of the dinner jacket, bringing old-world elegance to the refined gentleman...

Church's - century-old British shoemaking tradition

Ralph Lauren - American classics, the all-American adventurous, pioneer spirit...