I posted this blog last winter and after a recent day of exploring downtown Calgary inside and out it looks to me like some of the windows haven't been changed since last year. Shame on those retailers and restaurants who complain about lack of business, but do nothing to entice people to come downtown and shop. I can't believe some of the dark forbidding windows on some of the restaurants. Who wants to go into a black hole.
As many Everyday Tourist followers know, I love taking photographs of the wonderful collages created by the reflection of buildings, street life and window displays while flaneuring shopping streets. Recently, I was flaneuring along Stephen Avenue Walk (Calgary’s downtown pedestrian mall and home to two department stores, three indoor shopping malls and dozens of shops and restaurants) thinking that given it is Holiday Season, I would find some great reflections. Boy, was I wrong!
Other than a few of Holt Renfrew’s street windows and the thousands of cascading mini lights from Bankers Hall's skylight, I was hard pressed to find any Christmas/Holiday decorations. Many of the windows didn’t look much different than any other time of the year. I’d bet money some of them haven’t changed in over a year.
Riley & McCormick Western Wear and Lammle’s Western Wear & Tack both have flagship retail stores on Stephen Avenue. What a great opportunity for them to do something fun and unique with their large windows for the holidays based on a western wear fashion Christmas. Arnold Churgin Shoes, Winners, Sports Chek (Canada’s largest retailer of sporting goods in Canada and a Calgary company) and Out There (high end outdoor clothing retailer) also have flagship stores on the Walk, but you wouldn’t know it by their “bah humbug” windows.
Thank goodness some of the smaller independent stores got into the Christmas Spirit along Stephen Avenue.
The Department Stores
I always thought the purpose of a flagship stores was partly to build the company’s brand. There was no sense of animation or excitement to invite you to go in, or portray that this would be an interesting, fun place to do some Christmas shopping in any of these stores.
Hudson's Bay flagship store’s windows along Stephen Avenue are nothing short of pathetic. Along Stephen Avenue they announce a new development coming soon if you look in the window it looks like nothing is happening. The main entrance windows on 1st Street SW just off the Walk has a tired looking generic perfume banners having absolutely nothing to do the holidays. Even when you walk into the store, there’s no sense of celebration, no sense that this is a special place to shop.
Then there’s Flames Central (aka Allen/Palace Theatre) a major event centre. I don’t think they’ve changed their windows since they opened, which must be at least 10 years ago.
Even when you go inside the shopping malls (Bankers Hall, The Core and Scotia Centre) most of the retailers have ignored the power of exciting and enchanting windows, to make the tens of thousands of pedestrians who pass by the windows every day – stop, look and potentially come in to shop.
Downtown Christmas shopping used to be a tradition, not only in Calgary, but in cities across North America. Department stores like The Bay and Eaton’s would have wonderful Christmas windows with animated Christmas or winter scenes that attracted families from across the city to come downtown to shop.
In most major cities, the annual downtown Santa Claus Parade attracted tens of thousands of spectators/shoppers from across the city and was the traditional kick off of the holiday season. Today only few major cities have a parade and with a few exceptions the downtown department stores (those that still exist) don’t even bother with a Santa’s Village.
Kudos to the Calgary Downtown Association for organizing weekends with Santa at Devonian Gardens and Olympic Plaza, as well as for their lighting up Stephen Avenue at night, but without the help of retailers (indoors and out) creating fun, festive windows and shops, it is pretty much pointless.
Walking the streets of Kensington Village the celebration of the holiday season is a bit better. Kudos to Battisella Developments for their Christmas tree and to the Business Revitalization Zone for banners, Christmas hanging decorations and weekend activities (roaming Santa, Elves and horse drawn wagon rides.
However, the windows of the majority of the retailers, restaurants and cafes still are pretty much devoid of any sense of the holiday season.
No wonder more and more people are shopping online; the thrill of shopping in person is gone. I'd love to hear from readers what it is like in the suburban malls and Calgary's other shopping streets - 9th Ave, in Inglewood, 17th Ave. in Beltline or 4th Street in Mission.
Too bad it is only in places like Chicago and New York that the “thrill of the Christmas holiday season lives on.”
On my way home, I noticed several homeowners had decorating their street trees with Christmas ornaments. This got me thinking wouldn’t it be great if the merchants along Calgary’s pedestrian streets did the same to the trees in front of their stores. It would add some fun and festivity to what can be a pretty drab pedestrian experience in our winter season.
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