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Winter wonderland: Apple’s holiday window displays through the years

“Take a look in the five and ten, glistening once again, with candy canes and silver lanes aglow.” Holiday window displays have a magical quality about them that can bring a sense of childlike wonder to even the most jaded spirits. Dazzling lights and vivid colors brighten storefronts when the sun recedes, warming chilly evenings with depictions of fantastical and nostalgic scenes.

Likewise in Apple’s retail stores, holiday displays have surprised and delighted shoppers for many years with larger-than-life renditions of our favorite technology products. In these busy days of travel and celebration, relax for a moment and join us on a nostalgic tour of Apple’s holiday windows through the years.

The latest era of Apple retail architecture beginning in 2015 brought with it an end to formal window displays during all seasons. Storefronts in new locations are entirely free of obstructions, and product showcases are reserved for each store’s wall-length Avenues. That doesn’t mean Apple has ended holiday decorations entirely, however. Each November, graphic panels themed in the style of Apple’s annual gift guide line the walls of stores around the world.

The holiday season also coincides with World AIDS Day, when Apple tints store logos (RED) to express support for the fight to end AIDS.


Stanford Shopping Center

Apple Stanford

Apple’s gift guide theme for 2018 is “Together for the holidays.” The “Share Your Gifts” animated short highlights creativity through technology.


Apple The Forum Shops

In 2017, miniature figures were depicted climbing, celebrating around, and dancing on Apple products. Apple chose the theme “Imagination is a gift.


Apple Omotesando (Photo: Apple)

Apple The Americana at Brand (Photo: Michael Locke)

Apple Fifth Avenue (Photo: Brechtbug)

Low poly scenes and 3D rendered objects defined 2016’s theme, “The art of giving.”


Apple Greenwich Avenue (Photo: Wayne Campbell)

Apple Chaoyang Joy City (Photos: Weifeng)

2015 marked Apple’s transition from full holiday displays to graphic panels under the renewed gift guide tagline “From one gift come many.” Every classic store featured similar panels, but only select contemporary locations had space devoted to the graphics.


Apple The Westchester (Photo: Shop!)
Apple North Michigan Avenue (Photo: Thomas Hawk)

(Photo: John Colella)

Two triple sets of infinity mirrors hung in store windows to promote the iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2. Each chromed box used a grid of LEDs to display mesmerizing patterns and animations. Demo devices suspended in each display ran loops of popular games and apps.


Apple Fashion Show (Photos: Zach)

Apple Kurfürstendamm (Photos: Shop!)

In 2013, Apple highlighted the iPhone 5c and iPad Air against curtains of multicolor LEDs. The light grids were designed to form animated patterns including falling snowflakes.

In front of Apple Kurfürstendamm in Berlin, Germany, glass cubes held similar displays with 360-degree visibility. In early 2014, Apple again used an LED grid display to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Mac.


(Photos: Shop!)

Apple Causeway Bay (Photo: Mike Lau)

Apple Nagoya Sake (Photo: monomaniacgarage)

Featuring iPad Smart Covers and alternating colors of the iPod touch, Apple’s 2012 holiday wreath encircled the wordplay “Touching gifts.” 220 stores worldwide featured the wreath, which was made from printed and layered sheets of PVC foam board. The design is reminiscent of the iPad mini Smart Cover ad that preceded it.


Apple Uptown (Photo: Eric Thorson)

Apple Ginza (Photo: milacame)

New Year’s display at Apple Ginza (Photo: monomaniacgarage)

2011’s holiday scenes included oversized models of the iPhone 4s and iPad 2 with a focus on FaceTime. A cloud of suspended app icons dangled above the demo iPad, which cycled through App Store apps before receiving a FaceTime call front Santa Claus himself. In front of the iPhone, two elves worked together to say hi.


Apple Fifth Avenue (Photo: Andrea Sosio)

Apple Walnut Street (Photo: sameold2010)

Apple Ginza (Photo: m-s-y)

For the iPad’s debut in a holiday display, Apple depicted the tablet inside a massive snow globe. A life-size model of Santa, iPhone 4 in hand, demoed FaceTime.


Apple Regent Street (Photo: Jai’me)

(Photo: Wesley Fryer)

Apple Bahnhofstrasse (Photo: Simona)

One of the most maintenance-intensive display projects Apple ever undertook was placing real Christmas trees planted in soil in storefront windows. Behind the slogan “Give Mac,” two MacBooks were propped on opposite sides of the tree. Machines were even installed to infuse the air with the scent of evergreens.

Opposite the Mac display, a metal frame formed the skeleton for a tree of app icons. Displayed on a massive iPhone 3GS, the scene was designed to promote the success of the App Store with the tagline “85,000 apps. One box.”


Apple University Park Village (Photos: Scott Burch)

Apple San Francisco (Photo: Steve Rhodes)

Long before the days of AirPods, the white cables of Apple’s earbuds signaled that you owned an iPod. Like in its silhouette TV ads, Apple literally highlighted the look in its 2008 window display, which featured figures of Santa and an elf listening on an iPod touch and iPod nano.


Apple North Michigan Avenue (Photo: Vicky van Santen)

Apple Walnut Creek (Photos: Steve Rhodes)

Apple The Gateway (Photo: James Deville)

Both the iPhone and iPod touch were totally new in 2007, giving Apple an extra special opportunity to showcase cutting edge technology. The iPod line was promoted with a set of three nutcrackers holding the iPod touch, nano, and classic. Text on the window read “Season’s greetings from the iPod family.”

For the iPhone, Apple suspended neon fixtures reading “Do you hear what I hear? iPhone” over giant models of the device. In some locations the display was tweaked slightly and used an iPod touch with appropriate signage. These promotional models used television-sized LCD displays connected to a Mac behind the scenes to run a demo video loop.


Apple Ginza (Photo: Toshihiro Oimatsu)

Apple King of Prussia (Photo: Dimitri Tytgat)

Six custom iPod snowmen were sculpted and painted for select stores around the world, including Apple’s former San Francisco flagship. The 5-foot statues were mirrored elsewhere with printed cutouts bearing a similar look. For MacBooks and iMacs, Apple created a lighted snow tunnel.


Apple Regent Street (Photo: Tara Hunt)

Apple Fashion Show (Photo: mita_sho)

Like with FaceTime in later years, Apple promoted video chatting with friends and family for its 2005 display. Gingerbread cutouts sat behind iChat AV-equipped iMac G5s. The iPod line was also displayed on a glowing stand hanging from the store ceiling.


Apple Palo Alto (Photo: Ken Bibb)

“Someone you know has been very, very good this year.”
Apple Regent Street (Photo: Andy Ihnatko)

Apple Regent Street (Photo: Gary Allen)

The grand opening of London’s Apple Regent Street lined up almost perfectly with new holiday window scenes around the world. The brand new flagship store displayed hanging posters and acrylic stands staggered in a collage to showcase the iPod and iMac G5 lines. The photo collage theme extended inside stores to “give ” graphic panels and printed marketing materials.


Apple Ginza (Photos: Gary Allen)

(Photo: Persuasion Arts & Sciences)

A bright red ribbon and frost fractals wrapped storefront windows in 2003. To promote the iPod and PowerBook line, Apple appealed to creative skills and focused on “someone you know.”


Apple Bay Street (Photos: Gary Allen)

During Apple’s second holiday season in retail, the iMac G4 stole the show. One display featured the desktop in a snow globe surrounded by snowflakes on a lighted pedestal. Another included a model of a gigantic digital camera, positioning the iMac as the hub of your digital life.


Apple CambridgeSide (Photo: Tadd Torborg)

Apple Palisades (Photo: Tadd Torborg)

Apple CambridgeSide (Photo: Tadd Torborg)

Apple was operating just about two dozen stores going into December 2001. With a brand new product called the iPod, the company had a perfect holiday gift. Apple’s first window displays were more general-purpose than in later years, but set aesthetic standards for years to come. Lighted pedestals and oversized models of products were eye-catching even from a distance. Inside, special t-shirts and signage listed the “Top 5 gifts for the holidays.”

For related reading over the holidays, consider our deep dive into the overlooked craft of Apple’s temporary stores, and watch for our 2018 Apple retail year in review coming soon. Follow along with 9to5Mac’s Apple retail guide for all store news.

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Avatar for Michael Steeber Michael Steeber

Michael is a Creative Editor who covered Apple Retail and design on 9to5Mac. His stories highlighted the work of talented artists, designers, and customers through a unique lens of architecture, creativity, and community.

Contact Michael on Twitter to share Apple Retail, design, and history stories: @MichaelSteeber