Here’s a new experiment in retailing. You see those huge windows a little shop fronts have out front, those “window tents”? Well, these “windowmen” are big in France. They advertise their stores front and center – and not just pretty lights. They have posters; they sell knick-knacks and pastries, trinkets and birthday cakes. You just walk by and they’re there. You don’t have to read the ad, you don’t have to know anything about the shop to see a window. You just walk past and, poof, it’s a shop.
And nowadays, it is being tried in New York. An empress is buying all that merchandise, and so are the tourists. We have outdoor cathedrals: window shops on its side, people talk to each other and there are gardens and decorations and bakeries and children’s stories in French, and drinks and desserts and cigars and pink cars. There’s a little children’s museum that looks like a washing machine, with wet towels on the wall and cuddly toys. They do it, partly because it gives something for people to do while they wait for their bus, but mainly because they like it.
“We sit at the window on our chairs, taking in the panorama … and we even put our boots on.” Photograph: Chris Attridge/AP
The practice started in Paris about 10 years ago. But here in New York, it can be amusing: tourists chatting with the window-mongers, bagpipers playing in a window all day, and clients getting out and bringing homemade cookies or sculptures.
We sit at the window on our chairs, taking in the panorama – and we even put our boots on. It is so good that I will try it in every city and no city in this country. But I was a little surprised to find it here and in France. In the UK, you always make a detour and look at the shop inside because they are for sale. That was our mistake. In America, you just go ahead and walk straight in. You don’t go inside.
• Richard MacFarlane is a New York blogger and self-described window man