To a Main Street retailer, store windows serve as their image to the world. In today’s world of high-speed internet commerce and social media communication, storefront windows are often underutilized and overlooked by shop owners and consumers alike.
That is changing in downtown Ithaca, thanks to a special pilot program introduced by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance this holiday season. The Downtown Ithaca Visual Merchandising Program seeks to restore the excitement and interest of storefront windows to downtown Ithaca, and in particular the Ithaca Commons.
With the Ithaca Commons in the midst of a major makeover, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) found it difficult to provide traditional holiday decorations. There was a need to enliven the Commons area for the holidays as well as assist merchants to display and highlight their goods and services. The solution: mount a Commons visual merchandising program aimed at transforming storefront windows into themed, interesting, appealing, and attractive displays.
To tackle this assignment, the DIA contracted with Corning-based master window designer Ernest T. Gibbs. A veteran of visual merchandising, Gibbs has served as the window designer for downtown Corning, New York for the past fifteen years.
Gibbs is undertaking a pilot program that will give complete window makeovers to fifteen Commons storefronts. The fifteen were selected from applications received by the DIA Business Retention & Development Committee. All fifteen windows will be completed between November 1 and November 27. A unifying theme of white snowflakes, white lights, and lustrous red boxes will easily identify participating stores. Other Commons retailers are employing their own window designers to prepare their holiday windows. In fact, the DIA is making white lights and red boxes available to all interested downtown merchants for their windows, regardless of their participation in the pilot project.
Anchored by the white lights, giant white snowflakes, and bright red packages with red ribbons, Gibbs’s designs give the storefronts a consistent, cohesive look while allowing the individual merchants to choose what merchandise is showcased. Explains Gibbs, “Store windows are the ‘calling card’ to the customer and this is the time of the year when good presentation is a must. Colors, graphics, style, and theme can all coordinate and tell a unified story. Products need to be well-lit, the window needs to be clean, and the product story needs to be compelling. This is true of every retail center, but the Ithaca Commons demands extra attention to detail, since shoppers are strolling rather than driving past.”
Says Gary Ferguson, Executive Director of the DIA, “We want people to come downtown, stroll the Commons, and take in this new and exciting look. Ernie Gibbs is a master at visual merchandising and it will be fun to come downtown to check out all the windows and displays.” This is a pilot program. Ferguson notes that “if the window display project proves to be successful and well received, we will look to continue it in 2014, with help and support.”
Storefronts participating in the visual merchandising program include: The Pack ‘n Ship Store, Evolution 102, Autumn Leaves Used Books, Trader K’s, Petrune, Cellar D’Or Wine and Cider, Jillian’s Drawers, Diaspora, Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon, Big Time Barbershop, Loose Threads, Bloom Children’s Store, F. Oliver’s Oils and Vinegars, and T-Shirt Express.
The Downtown Ithaca Visual Merchandising Program is just one of a number of activities and events planned in downtown for this holiday season. Other activities include Small Business Saturday on November 30, Restaurant Week in Ithaca from November 30 to December 8, a special Holiday Gallery Night on December 6, Santa’s Arrival to Downtown on December 7, the Ice Wars National Ice Carving Association Competition on December 13 and 14, the 4th Annual Downtown Ithaca Chowder Cook-off on December 14, and the December 14 Winter Fine Art Market. For a complete list of activities and events, refer to the Downtown Ithaca website at http://www.downtownithaca.com.