Holts unveils holiday window displays

A marketing tradition brought to life with a tech partnership

A marketing tradition brought to life with a tech partnership

It’s Thursday afternoon and Holt Renfrew on Toronto’s Bloor Street is crawling with good-looking, well-dressed men and women armed with branded magenta shopping bags. Maybe it’s the fun, yet glamorous Christmas window displays that have drawn them in or the Christmas music playing outside. Either way, the holiday season at Holt Renfrew is in full force.

The luxury retail chain has unveiled its “Northern Noel” holiday windows and marketing campaign. Holt Renfrew is known for its glittery and incredibly detailed window displays, which are an important part of the retailer’s marketing strategy.

“They’ve really become the attraction point for the store and allow us to portray the world of Holt Renfrew and that very much is what we tried to do this season,” said Kimberly Grabel, senior vice-president of marketing and customer service at Holt Renfrew.

The store’s Bloor St. location has six storefront windows that have been divided into 11 vignettes that capture holiday moments inspired by vintage posters. They start on the slopes and end in a warm ski chalet. One scene, for instance, captures a lumberjack rescuing a woman wearing a long evening gown, while another depicts four men attempting to wrap Christmas gifts.

A postcard-sized paint-by-number image of snow-capped mountains has been converted into large murals that serve as a background for the outdoor scenes. The image is also found hanging in and around the inside of the store.

“We played with the entertainment and festivities around après ski, rather than the actual sport, to try to have some fun with it and what you would do up north,” Tracey Peters, senior manager, national visual merchandising at Holt Renfrew, told Marketing. The aprés ski theme is carried throughtout the store with a chair lift, fake snow and a faux wooden moose

The Toronto window displays uses recast mannequins from the ‘60s for a fun, animated look, which is something “you don’t see in modern mannequins,” explained Peters.

“Fashion got very serious through the years. We’re trying to bring some of the fun back,” added Grabel.

The high-end retailer is also allowing shoppers in its Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver locations to be part of the holiday window display through a partnership with Samsung Canada. Shoppers can sit on a single chair lift and have their photo taken against the snow-capped mural. Using a Samsung tablet, shoppers are able to email the image. The photos taken in-store are also uploaded and put front and centre on a large Samsung flat screen display in one of the windows.

For a chance to win gift cards or Samsung products, customers can share their photo on Instagram and Twitter using the MyNorthernNoel hashtag and the @HoltRenfrew and @SamsungCanada handles. Customers can also enter the contest through the retailer’s Facebook app.

“Some of what we’re working on is the approachability and the welcoming piece of Holt Renfrew,” said Grabel of the decision to allow shoppers to be part of this year’s window. “Yes, we sell some things that are very expensive [but] we sell some things that are not that expensive, so putting a little fun into what we’re doing is important.”

In keeping with this year’s theme, Holts is also hosting a series of in-store events such as knitting circles, paint-by-numbers stations and gingerbread decorating.

From brainstorming sessions to the actual building of each vignette and store displays, this year’s holiday effort was a year in the making. The team at Holts will meet this week, said Grabel, to brainstorm ideas for next year’s theme.

The retailer is carrying its holiday theme across the pages of Holts magazine, a 100-plus page print publication that debuted in September and is distributed in-store and to top customers and Holt Renfrew vendors. The Holiday 2013 edition acts as a luxury gift guide with pages dedicated to “gifts for a getaway – whimsical accents for those après ski moments” and “gifts for the hostess.”

At the time of its launch, Grabel told Marketing that a print magazine is a way for the retailer to tell collectively the various elements of its brand story.

Holts also includes full-page ads that are negotiated as part of larger partnerships with preferred vendors. It is published three times a year.

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