Holiday Store Window Design: Designed to Make You Stop (and Spend)

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Jemal Countess / Getty Images

Lord & Taylor's Christmas windows unveiled on November 14, 2011 in New York City.

The holiday window displays in stores like Lord & Taylor and Macy’s range from traditional (Santa, Christmas trees, gifts) to whimsical (ice-skating puppets) to just plain weird (Lady Gaga as half-woman, half-motorcycle). All of these store displays have one thing in common, though: They’re designed to draw in the consumer’s eye—followed, ideally, by the consumer in person, and the consumer’s wallet.

Does the presence of an interesting holiday store window actually boost business? A study by webcam company EyeTrackShop (reported on by USA Today) holds that, indeed, what’s in a store window factors directly into what happens at the store’s cash registers.

Shoppers were surveyed after being shown six different retailer window displays, and EyeTrackShop executive Jeff Bander said that the “the time spent looking (at a display) has a direct correlation to sales. When it’s done properly, sales do increase.”

(MORE: ‘Cyber Week’ Holiday Spending Hits an All-Time High)

The most successful displays are the ones that hold the viewer’s eye longest. This helps explains why displays are often remarkably detailed—the tinier, more intricate and compelling the details, the longer the passerby is likely to stare. Motion seems to work well too; people will watch longer at a moving (rather than static) scene. And again, the longer someone looks at a store window, the more likely he is to actually go inside to see more (and spend).

If the point of a window display is to get pedestrians to stop and look, Barneys in New York City seems to have a winner. CBS’s “Early Show” recently featured Barneys’ provocative 2011 holiday windows, which were designed in trademark freaky fashion by “fame monster” Lady Gaga. One window, for example, is entitled “Gaga Machine,” and shows a nude golden metallic Gaga figure that’s half woman, half motorcycle.

How could you walk by that window without giving it a second glance?

(MORE: Gift Registry for Everyone? Why Surprise Presents Are a Bad Idea)

Lady Gaga is known not only as a monster of fame, but commerce as well. An entire line of Gaga Workshop X merchandise is on sale at Barneys, including a pack of four weird monsters selling for $58.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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