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September 11, 2019

Window shopping as an art form: How to visual merchandise

If you're in the habit of drinking and eating on Leigh Street in the city's west, then you've likely had your eye caught by one of Julie Barnes' shop window displays.

Julie Barne’s shop, Leigh Street Luggage, opened in 1980 and is the gold standard when it comes to visual merchandising. In three succinct points, Julie shares her strategies for moving people from outside her shop looking in, to inside buying things.

A good window display goes both ways: inside and out!



Passers by don’t have all day

“I’ve got to think about all these people that eat and drink on this street each week,” the denizen of Leigh Street, Julie Barnes tells CityMag on our recent visit. “I change my window weekly.” 

Down Adelaide’s now famous food and drink strip, Leigh Street Luggage sits unassuming in its scale, but looms large in its presence. The retail icon of the west somehow turns a sometimes item – luggage – into utterly desirable must-have objects that make you want to buy a ticket to Japan, San Sebastian or Copenhagen right now.

“Because I’ve got a small window I’ve only got a very short opportunity to convey my message,” says Julie. The day we visit the shop Julie has hung a 1.5m model aeroplane over her illuminated window display. It’s hung in a way as to mimic a real plane taking off and we can’t help but imaginine ourselves inside with our new carry-on luggage stowed snuggly in the overhead locker. Julie is a storyteller who understands the romance of travel, but she’s also got some practical tips for maintaining an effective shopfront. “Check for dead insects! You should check for dead insects every day,” says Julie.


Know your audience

Where are they going & where have they been?

Julie believes her audience stretches across demographics but all enjoy the finer things in life. Her window strategy is as much about attracting theatre-goers as it is about frequent fliers. “At night it’s very important I have small things in the window that attract the attention of the person who’s probably been out to dinner, been out to the theatre,” says Julie. “I always have a piece of luggage that’s different to your average bear and keep the content in my window down to a minimum, you don’t want to overcrowd it.”

Julie always ‘activates’ her products. Getting them out of the packaging they arrive in and demonstrating their function and quirks to tell a story of how her products fit in your life


Capture and release

A humane approach to retail

As we’re talking, a passer-by stops and looks at the illuminated items in Julie’s front window. Julie has been talking about how she puts lighter colours in the window, because her background in art tells her “the eye sees lighter colours first.” The man lingers a full 30 seconds, before pushing on the door and entering the shop. “Hello,” says Julie in a way that tells her customer she knows every answer to every question he might have, including where in the world he should travel to. We stay just long enough to see him fall deeper into Julie’s clutches, enchanted by this unique and beautiful store.

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