3 key retail lessons from cult 1980s movie Mannequin

It’s the beginning of a New Year and already reports are emerging that post Christmas spending is down. The UK high street sales fell nearly 13 per cent nationwide with shopping centre taking the biggest hit. So, with this New Year, it’s clear that retail needs a new way.

In 2016, we talked about how key trends were influencing consumer shopping habits. Consumers want you come to and find them where they are, they are no longer coming to you. Consumers want to be dazzled. Consumers want e-commerce that works. Consumers want you to respect them and embrace their diversity.

So, with what we learned in 2016, how can we apply this to 2017, to boost sales and reignite a positive, reciprocal relationship with the consumer? Well, surprisingly watching the cult 1980s hit show Mannequin offers up some answers.

It’s not the typical place you might go for retail lessons, but if we’ve learned anything about retail recently, it’s that innovation comes from unexpected places.

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So what can we learn from Mannequin? Well the hit cult movie tells the tale of a shop floor boy who falls in love with a Mannequin, but the secondary story is how he uses the Mannequin to create dynamic window displays that turn around the fortune of a department store that is down on its luck. As the movie quote goes maybe if consumers are dazzled by the shop windows “If they come to look, they’ll stay to buy.”

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Here’s three key ideas to learn from the movie:



1. Shop windows have never been so important

Ok, so you know this, but the idea of the shop window has changed. For traditional retail stores shop windows are still very important as this NY Times article shows, people still want a spectacle, but how do you make sure that they come to see and buy, and not just to see and Instagram. The visual is still so very important, that’s why Instagram has done so well, so when thinking about your shop windows, both physical and virtual, how do you create enough of a buzz (with your visual merchandising and what tips can you take from Instagram)? How do you style an outfit so that the consumer wants the full head to toe look, who are your key influencers rocking your key styles of the season, what is your brand’s eco-system?

2. Innovation is key

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In the movie, the main character played by Andrew McCarthy teams up with the store visual merchandiser, and his magic Mannequin to transform the store windows. They push the ideas of innovation, the mannequins move, in one scene they use wind machines to make it look like they are surfing, in another playing tennis, in another on a cruise: this is all to create an illusion, to transport consumers to another world. Previous to Andrew getting the job, the Mannequins had been stationary and stale, he brought them to life. While moving mannequins might seem dated now, the idea is still important: how can you innovate the way that you sell. To create the desire, the demand, and the intrigue. Also, another key idea, is that you need to have a team that embraces change and innovation. Andrew gets the job because the department store owner played by Golden Girl’s Estelle Getty, wants to restore her family department store to greatness, and she is willing to try out a number of interesting and new ideas to revive the place.

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3. Hard work and creativity has never been so important

Ok, again this might sound simple. But in the movie, it’s Andrew’s hard work and his magic Mannequin that transforms the windows. He works late into the night every night to create a vision for the windows and the store. Despite being hounded by the shop’s night patrol officer, and another member of the team who doesn’t want him to succeed, he works tirelessly to transform the windows, to innovate and to display the shop items in a new, and interesting way. He also works with the instore visual merchandiser to play with a plethora of ideas, to present each department in the best way. His out-of-the-box thinking is what makes the store a huge success again, and incredibly profitable.

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