Walking in a Window Wonderland

Polar bears and reindeer and Christmas trees – oh my! Storefronts throughout Toronto’s downtown have been dressed up in preparation for the long-awaited arrival of Santa. The sparkling displays filled with holiday cheer light up Yonge Street for shoppers and passersby alike. Downtown Toronto has fully embraced the holiday season.

Over 50 Ryerson University retail management students helped bring the holiday fun to downtown Yonge businesses during Winter Magic’s sixth annual Window Wonderland, a project that aims to add holiday cheer to 27 storefronts.

The students’ efforts were recognized and rewarded during Wednesday’s Window Wonderland award ceremony at the Ted Rogers School of Management. Window Wonderland is one of five seasonal events put on by Winter Magic. Winter Magic runs holiday-themed, community events throughout the Christmas season to create a winter festival in downtown Toronto.

For Window Wonderland, Ryerson retail management students decorated the storefronts of Yonge Street businesses with festive designs. The students had to create the displays while staying within a budget of $100.

Although participating students receive no school credit, first-year retail management student Ashleigh Henessy explains that participating in Window Wonderland acts as “a rite of passage” for retail students at Ryerson. Henessy decorated Yonge Street Grill’s storefront.

Shoppers voted online for their favourite displays. The students who created one of the top five displays as chosen by online voters received people’s choice awards. Industry professionals also judged the displays and awarded their favourites.

Sandy Sebastio and Steph Armstrong, two judges of Window Wonderland and visual merchandisers for clothing store Jean Machine, attended the awards ceremony. “Visuals will always be the silent seller,” said Armstrong, explaining that window displays are crucial to attracting potential customers, especially during the holiday season.

This project succeeds in “creating artwork for the customer,” explained Sebastio. To judge the displays, Sebastio and the other judges considered the display’s ability to communicate theme, connect with its target audience and the display’s overall creativity or wow-factor.


The Hard Rock Cafe display (Photo by Hannah Logan)

Sheldon Levy,president and vice chancellor of Ryerson, presented the two final awards to the students who designed the storefront displays for Panera Bread and Mark’s Work Warehouse.The involvement of Ryerson with Window Wonderland is “a lot about giving back and being a part of the community,” said Levy. He went on to say that Ryerson’s involvement in these projects “is a part of who we are and a part of who we are as a university.”

Repeat-winners International Hair and Mark’s Work Warehouse each scooped up awards from both the voting public and the judges. Other winners include The Stag Shop, Salon Liberte, The Hard Rock Café, Panera Bread, and BMV.

The Hard Rock Café display was designed with a musical flair. A Christmas tree was built out of records, and holiday wrapping paper was used as a backdrop to music notes. The finishing touch was the large, white lettering that read “let it snow.”The word “snow” had been crossed out in red, replaced with the word “rock.”


The Stag Shop display (Photo by Hannah Logan)

The Stag Shop took a more risqué approach, decorating their white Christmas tree with fluffy pink handcuffs. Mannequins in lacy lingerie stood beside the tree, one holding a sparkly silver wreath, alongside glittering snowflakes that hung from the ceiling.

Marble slab also participated in the project. Their window display had a snowy playground with a snowman as its centerpiece. The snowman wore an ice-cream container as a hat, graham crackers as buttons and had marshmallows for a mouth.

Adam Bellerose, a Marble Slab employee, said the display is “white and snowy. That’s all you really need this time of year.” “I like when all the stores get into it,” he said. “It’s good for the city.”

BMV had two separate festive window displays. The winning window was decorated with recognizable characters like Charlie Brown, Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf stood to the left, mounted on a tower of books, commanding “You shall let it snow.” Hanging paper snowflakes filled any empty spaces.

Julia Rigato, fourth-year Ryerson University retail management student, helped decorate a second BMV window. “It was a difficult window,” she said, as they were forced to work around the DVD racks that crowded their already minimal space. Teddy bears, stockings, tissue-paper snow, and a banner spelled out “Let it snow,” adding a dash of holiday cheer to what was once a bland window display. Rigato stayed under budget, spending only $30.

“People just love the window with the Care Bears,” said Grace Murphy, an employee at BMV, referring to Rigato’s display. Although she has not heard many comments from customers, she believes that it does spread Christmas joy. “The students put a lot of effort into it.”