Window displays that move

Charles 15 Comments

Posted by Richard Rawlinson  at his eye-watering best

The multiple windows of Harrods, and the eye-watering budget for the displays in these windows, are a far cry from your average undertaker’s window onto the high street. However, moving installation is perhaps one trend any retailer can take from London’s leading stores.

Last Christmas, Harrods windows became Orient Express-style train carriages filled with mannequins modelling the latest seasonal partywear. Behind these beau monde passengers, passing scenes of a Winter Wonderland rolled by the carriage window—video screens creating an illusion of movement along the railway track.

A flat screen at the back of an undertaker’s window could perhaps engage passers by. An uncontroversial video for said screen could perhaps be one of those time lapse videos on a loop: the rising and setting sun; flowers budding into bloom before shedding their petals; the ebb and flow of the tide; a race through the seasons—winter, spring, summer, autumn. All these natural scenes are appropriate, too, provoking thought about life, death and rebirth, the beauty, frailty and eternal optimism of life cycles.

There are also videos of ageing faces morphing from baby, toddler and teen through to the various stages of adulthood. The time lapse video could become synonymous with FDs, rather like those woodland scenes now ubiquitous on FD websites, even those not specialising in eco-funerals.

The eye-catching screen could set the scene for props in the window, too. A time lapse nature scene would be harmonious with displays of, say, wicker and cardboard coffins and urns, generously festooned with wild flowers and foliage.

A display of sleek modernist coffins and urns could be set in a more minimalist backdrop with the screen showing the numerals of a digital clock’s hour, minutes and seconds ticking away. Again, it says something about time passing. Traditional coffins could be accessorised with more formal floral displays beneath a screen of flickering candles, evoking a mood without risking health and safety. A film of poppy fields might serve as the prerequisite WWI anniversary display.

Undertakers’ window displays market not just funeral products and services but brand personality, meaning the display brief is wide open to creative and conceptual ideas.

A window with a lonely coffin and mean flower arrangement in a single vase says, no imagination. And when it remains unchanged for months at a time, it says, no effort, which could be construed as apathetic service, even when this is not the case.

Creative and changing displays attract attention in themselves and also make people anticipate the next visual surprise. It’s worth investing in an artistic window dresser and the props that are the tools of his/her trade in order to build awareness and identity of brand.

Good windows can stimulate sufficient buzz to even inspire media attention, thus doubling up as PR as well as direct marketing to consumers. Even publicity initially criticising a window as controversial can turn into a plus, giving you the opportunity to explain its positive message. Never any harm in thinking out of the box.

Wonderful world

41 years in 60 seconds


  1. Charles

    While I totally understand the importance of a really good window display, I deliberately chose not to use a TV screen.
    I personally don’t bother looking at them when the scroll away in my local post office and if I am looking, I couldn’t tell you what I had just watched.
    I put so much effort into my window displays and they are changed every 4-6 weeks.
    Sometimes they are really simple, sometimes they are so complicated it makes my brain hurt thinking about where to put it all!
    A well done window display can look fantastic. I just feel with the amount of technology about these days, I think it is an easy way out of not putting any thought of imagination into the display.
    Just because technology is there, doesn’t mean we have to use it.

  2. Charles

    Hi Charles, I like the Idea but have to agree with Lucy on certain points, My premises are directly facing a large number of elderly peoples flats, i have selected my layout in the design of someones front room, nothing on show that resembles my profession, this way the good people opposite when they open the curtains are not constantly reminded on whats round the corner. The window TV display would work in certain FDs premises but not all.
    I do think Location is the key point, and when I expand the business its certainly something i would consider.
    Lucy, just been having a peek at your website, brilliant price structure….

    1. Charles

      Thanks! Just about to update the website to make it even easier for people to understand. If you have any suggestions, drop me an email! Always like to hear what others think.

      Back to the window displays….I think you are right and it is knowing your local area too.

      I am on a main road and there is always road traffic but also a lot of foot traffic too. I don’t shy away from using coffins in my window displays. In fact, I have had one in every window I have done apart from Christmas.

      I do however make sure that the coffin isn’t absolutely the focus. For example, the opening window display I did.

      There is always something else to look at, while still being there. I love the bamboo coffins from Ecoffins we currently have in the window. Many people have probably seen one, but may be too embarrassed to ask about them. By having one in the window, we are encouraging them to ask.

      I think a really good window display has taken everything into consideration and can bring everything together in a subtle way. I personally think resorting to a video on loop on a TV screen is pretty lazy.

      I do spend a lot of time figuring out my displays. It is a really important part of my business to get across to the general public that of course I can arrange something really traditional but I can also arrange these other things for you too.
      I already know what my displays are going to be for the rest of the year. In general, I change them every 4-6 weeks and I need to plan them in advance so I can get hold of all the other things I need.
      In fact, a bit like the Royal Household planning their members funerals in advance, I already know exactly what is going into the window should any member of the Royal Family die!

  3. Charles

    I don’t see an issue with using something like this as a backdrop as and where appropriate which I think is what Richard is suggesting rather than using it as the whole of the display.

    1. Charles

      I understand he meant as part of the backdrop and not as a whole window display, but I think by using a video on loop on a TV lacks imagination.

      I also think that if you need a TV then you can’t be confident in your window.

      Why would a funeral director want to replicate a motorway service station or post office with the TVs playing adverts on loop?

      1. Charles

        Lucy, I suggest video installation as part of a display can involve plenty of imagination. Rather than taking the form of an ad on a` loop, it could even class as art on a loop, no less. It could even be self-directed. Do you agree that the passing scene viewed through the Harrods ‘train windows’ adds to the overall mood? That said, if it’s not for you when designing your own windows, no problem!

  4. Charles

    I have a 4 ft price list in my window, and being next to a coop food store that stays open till 22.00 its clearly on show, even during the day people stand and stare at it and some even come in and ask for the details.
    Price List in the window, it works for me…………….

  5. Charles

    I guess the TV thing is just different horse for different courses. I don’t think it will be anything I will be doing in the near future.

    However, I always have a price list in the window no matter what display I have in at the time and if I use ashes caskets or coffins, those always have a short description of what they are, what it is made out of and of course, a price.

    I think no matter what you choose to use in a window display, what ever you decide to do is probably a damn sight more than the local big chain!

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