The secret behind the newspaper?
July 10, 2007 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Why do retail stores always cover up their windows when they are doing construction/ preparing their store before opening?

My initial thought was that it creates a sense of anticipation and wonder prior to their opening, but it seems like such a strange consistent marketing gimmick that there must be other reasons. If I owned a shop and was doing construction in it, I would like some sunlight in the windows while I worked, also watching something slowly come to life seems more exciting then watching newspaper on a window day in and day out. So, am I missing something? Are they hiding from having to get construction permits? Is this just a United States phenomenon or does this occur on other countries?
posted by brinkzilla to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
watching something slowly come to life seems more exciting then watching newspaper on a window day in and day out.

No doubt, watching someone else work and build something is extraordinarily interesting for the watchers. It's probably annoying for the watched to have faces pressed against the glass all day long, like being main attraction in a zoo.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:57 AM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Construction workers can be pretty rough-looking and tend to shout at each other and spit a lot (at least in my experience working on super-luxury mansions, can't imagine the guys who set up retail spaces are much better.) Maybe the stores don't want people to associate that with their image.
posted by contraption at 10:57 AM on July 10, 2007

to hype stuff up -- if you see incremental changes in a space, it's no big deal when the store opens. If the windows are covered during construction, and then the store opens with the covers removed, suddenly there's a Brand New Thing where there was an empty store once, and that's very exciting.
posted by boo_radley at 10:57 AM on July 10, 2007

Also: Those hunky constructions workers often have expensive construction equipment lying around and would rather not tempt glass-breaking thieves.
posted by troybob at 11:00 AM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

If it's a competitive market, and they're going to be stocking unique items, it can be an effort to keep the competition from obtaining like items prior to their opening. We have friends opening a retail store next week, and their biggest competitor in town has been spotted walking the block regularly, trying to peer in the windows.
posted by librarianamy at 11:02 AM on July 10, 2007

Best answer: Not a store owner, but:
It definitely shows that it is closed. Seeing lights on and people milling about might lead passersby to believe that it's open.

The paper gives a big area to advertise "COMING SOON" or whatever.

The paper keeps the window cleaner.

If I were working on a project on a main street, yes it would be nice to have window light, but it might be a distraction to feel like you are "on display" while working. Think about doing housework with your front blinds open in a busy area.

Having the work in-progess hidden keeps people from making an assumption about how it will look when done, and thus form a negative opinion.

It DOES build anticipation.

It is a theft deterrent. Not knowing what expesive equipment is sitting around, and whether anyone is there may prevent temptation of a smash-and-grab thief.

It's less of an eyesore to the rest of the neighborhood.

I can probably think of more. Good question though! I have also seen white-washed windows, with "coming soon" messages painted in a contrasting color.
posted by The Deej at 11:05 AM on July 10, 2007 [3 favorites]

When my parents owned a store, they did it to prevent people from looking in and bugging them.
posted by ThirstyEar2 at 11:08 AM on July 10, 2007

I worked for Pier 1 imports for 7 years, opening and or remodeling at least 8 different stores. We never covered the windows. But this lead to one thing that was really annoying.

No matter what the disarray of the store- shelving half built, boxes everywhere, wires hanging from the ceiling, constructions workers using loud tools- if the front door was unlocked, customers would wander in. And if there was merchandise in the process of being displayed, they would get pissed if they couldn't buy it right then.

At least if the windows are covered up these people might catch a clue that the store is NOT OPEN.
posted by kimdog at 11:37 AM on July 10, 2007

Deej and kimdog have it.

Our biggest issue was with the lookie-loos who have nothing to do and all day to do it. You're pestered with inane questions and stories ("my grandpa had a hardware store..." "I remember when this was a tailor shop" and so on) that waste your time. A few sheets of butcher paper solves that.
posted by Atom12 at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2007

In Egypt the fronts of stores are covered with giant bolts of patterned cloth. So it looks like this is a pretty universal behavior. I would add that covering the windows hides the changes you are making not only from your customers but from your competitors as well.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:06 PM on July 10, 2007

It's because it's extremely annoying to the people working inside.

I live in an urban apartment that was originally conceived as a live/work kind of arrangement. The entire front of my place faces a sidewalk and it's solid glass. I have huge, floor-to-ceiling curtains, frosted windows and doors, barking dogs, and have taken careful pains to make it look as much like a residence as possible.

However, none of this stops people from trying to peer in through the cracks of my curtains to watch me type internet comments on my couch in my underwear. I can understand being mistaken (a lot of tourists come to a bakery next door) but consistently - every day - people don't just peer into my window but actually stand outside and STARE AT ME. They make comments ("nice couch"), tease my dogs, and sometimes just walk right in (this happens about once a week, and about half the time they start up a conversation like I invited them in).

I am a pretty passive, non aggressive person - but NOTHING makes me want to kill someone more than having them stand outside my apartment with their greasy faces pushed against my window trying to watch what I'm doing. I know it's not the same privacy issue for workers - they're not in their home - but I imagine it's the same kind of frustration. More than a few times I've gone outside and told someone to fuck off (to put it nicely).
posted by bradbane at 8:55 AM on July 11, 2007

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