Holiday window displays can help lure shoppers, study says

— -- Lifelike jumping horses, towers of neon-wrapped presents and sparkling fairy puppets fill store windows across the country this month as retailers aim to boost the holiday shopping spirit and attract passersby.

And what's in those windows can often make a difference in holiday sales success. A recent study by EyeTrackShop, a webcam eye-tracking company, tracked participants' attention to holiday window displays and found that they were more attracted to windows by Gap than H&M or Uniqlo, and Bergdorf Goodman over Saks Fifth Avenue and Henri Bendel.

EyeTrackShop chose the six retailers to reflect "stores where people love to shop," says Jeff Bander, senior vice president of client services.

The 400 respondents focused on the photo of Gap's window 35% longer than H&M or Uniqlo and said they were 26% more likely to shop at Gap based on its display than at the other two stores.

Similarly, participants dwelled on the Bergdorf Goodman window 28% longer than the displays of its two high-end counterparts, though their intention to shop at Bergdorf over the other stores after seeing its display was just 4% higher.

Bander declined to release specific figures citing private contracts, but he says "the time spent looking (at a display) has a direct correlation to sales. When it's done properly, sales do increase."

The success of Gap and Bergdorf Goodman's windows can be attributed to the details, he says.

"One of the things that gets attention is when you can show motion. At Bergdorf, you can see horses jumping, whereas bags aren't doing anything," he says, referring to tiers of handbags in the Saks Fifth Avenue window.

He also says that Gap's decision to include a price in its display, advertising $25 sweaters, sets it apart from competitors.

Successful window displays create a lasting impression with elements that surprise, says Paul Olszewski, award-winning windows director for Macy's. "It's always something unexpected and something with a sense of humor," he says.