Image: Window display
Justin Sullivan  /  Getty Images file
Pedestrians walk by a Christmas themed window display at a Land's End store in Chicago, Illinois.
updated 12/2/2008 1:21:22 PM ET 2008-12-02T18:21:22

Outside it might be mild or downright balmy. But inside store windows at this time year, it can be winter no matter the temperature.

Glistening scenes of holiday glory often set against a backdrop of snowflakes and icicles appear in windows from Maine to Miami. Some retailers say painting a picture of winter as a cold, sparkling wonderland can help get shoppers in the right frame of mind, even if they are wearing shorts.

Martin Katz, a top jeweler in Beverly Hills, Calif., last year recreated the rooftops on European skylines — with shaved-plastic snow — to help evoke the charm, warmth and memories of the holiday season.

"I embrace winter because, first of all, my wife is from Chicago and she says it's not Christmas if it's not `winter.' ... And it's true, you never see a holiday movie in the sunshine," Katz says.

"It's symbolic: Winter speaks of the tradition that most people remember," he says.

But Katz doesn't do this only for the schmaltz. There's a business strategy here, too.

"Winter windows 100 percent set the tone for shoppers. When you're in a climate like Los Angeles, what's going to trigger the holiday spirit? There are no leaves, no big change in weather. You see the visual cues and that triggers the mechanism that churns the holiday spirit," he says.

There might be no more obvious North-Pole link than snow, and plenty of places make their own.

Flakes fall in the lobby of the Miami Seaquarium and there are 4-and 5-foot-tall light sculptures of sea lions and killer whales scattered around the park. "We are trying to bring out the holiday feel to the park even though we are in hot weather. We thought the lights and the snowfall would add that nice holiday feel to the park," explains spokeswoman Carolina Perrina.

Snow will also blow outside the Saks Fifth Avenue in Naples, Fla., on Dec. 9 when the store unveils its crystal-themed window display while celebrating its grand reopening after an extensive renovation.

"The signature of Saks is the snowflake and we thought it (snow) would be a nice celebration," says vice president and general manager Joanne Walsh. She also suspects it will lift the spirits of consumers.

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"Even when we just make the shift to holiday music, you see a different feeling on everyone's faces," she says.

It's been 19 years since there was snow on the ground in Charleston, S.C., at Christmas, but retailers' windows still echo the old holiday favorite, "White Christmas."

The windows of Banana Republic are lined with artificial trees flocked with faux snow, just like you'd see in its stores farther north. Behind the trees and merchandise are large backdrops with winter-scene black and white photographs.

Slideshow: Faces of Santa At Worthwhile, another clothing and gift boutique in Charleston, plain clear soda straws are attached to string, the effect seeming to simulate snow falling in the store window. At Elizabeth Stuart Designs, which sells antiques, jewelry and interiors, white lights are both in the window and store, many wrapped around bare white branches.

A small animated Santa and Mrs. Claus on a ground of fluffy cotton snow wave to passers-by from the window of M. Dumas & Sons, a men's clothier.

But at the shopping arcade at nearby Charleston Place, there are traditional Southern decorations in the shopping arcade: swags with artificial greens and magnolia leaves, laced with ribbons of red, light green and metallic green.

Greens can be a way to Christmas without going cold.

Kuhn Flowers in Jacksonville, Fla., surrounds the real greens in its two-story window with the Clauses and carolers, something the florist has done this every year since 1976.

"Jacksonville and north Florida is pretty traditional. There are places that do the Santa Claus in a bathing suit. But our windows have always been kind of the classic," says Liz Morgan, the store's public relations representative.

On the flip side, some Southern retailers say many of the South's snowbirds come for sun and sand and don't want to be reminded of the cold they left behind. Those stores come up with some creative alternatives.

Bradford Paige, the creative director of Lounge, a new home and clothing boutique in the Aventura Mall just outside Miami, is thinking about the start of the social season.

He's decorating each of Lounge's three entrances in the spirit of luxury, instead of Christmas. "Give me gorgeous flowers, serious fashion in the windows. Nothing but beautiful, but sequins and leather and fringe," he says.

Tommy and Theresa Turchin want their jewelry store window in Miami's design district to reflect a different sort of season as well. The window at Turchin Love & Light Jewelry will display a 15-foot-long version of the couple's "peace necklace."

A skewed take on the holidays comes from fashion-forward Ted Baker, also in the Aventura Mall. In its display, titled "The Revenge of the Christmas Trees," the trees attack a woodcutter they've tied up with gold garland.

Rebelution in Miami is mixing snow and sun, with ornaments and neon-colored snowflakes hang off surfboards, and coral and glitter decorate a Christmas tree.

Back at Martin Katz in California, the jeweler is considering scores of gifts behind an elaborate vault door.

Some stories just go with it and embrace their local roots.

Turquoise and chili peppers make the season bright for Native American arts and crafts stores in Arizona.

Pat Garner, manager of Red Rock Trading Post in Chandler, Ariz., says creating a display around Southwestern merchandise makes for the fun task of being festive but not flashy.

This year, the store's main window showcases a 2-foot Christmas tree illuminated with lights, Indian dream catchers — threaded, feathered hoops thought to filter out bad dreams — and ornaments bearing desert scenes. A smaller, plain pine sits next to it in a Native American ceramic pot.

While Garner chose pottery and blankets with earthy browns and reds, she also anchored the display with a hard-to-miss turquoise steer skull.

For J.D. Atkinson, whose family operates about a dozen Indian trading posts and galleries in Tucson, Ariz., a "winter wonderland" translates into rustic visions of cactus and hay.

"It's more of a feel of being from New Mexico," Atkinson says. "We normally don't have any seasons here. There's hot and not as hot."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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