The Hudson’s Bay flagship store at Queen and Yonge Streets traditionally have superb Christmas windows, filled with a lot of intricate detail. I ventured down to the store last night with camera in hand and great expectations of a warm and fuzzy experience. As a Christmas traditionalist, though, I was incredibly disappointed: instead of the traditional cheerful Christmas vignettes, the window displays this year are all about the commercialism and automation of Christmas gift giving. The emphasis this year is on providing an interactive “virtual experience” which involves the spectator via their phone.

Since Saks Fifth Avenue moved into the eastern side of the building a few years ago, The Bay Christmas windows have never been the same. Anyone who’s lived in the city for a while and gone down to The Bay to check these out will see that now there are only five Bay windows remaining on the Queen Street side, near the west end. I remember when those fantastically-dressed windows stretched all the way across Queen Street and down Yonge to Richmond Street, utilizing all the Bay windows. At one time, The Bay’s Christmas windows were easily on par with Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s in New York; it was an awesome site, but is no more.

The Windows Theme This Year

For the first time ever, the digital extension will now transport Canadians inside the windows from anywhere across the country. To immerse themselves in the whimsy and wonder of the windows, customers just scan the QR code, point the camera at a surface and click to be transported into the augmented reality. Once ‘inside,’ device motion and screen interactions let people explore elements from all five of the holiday windows using both the front and rear cameras on their smartphones. An added bonus: Holiday enthusiasts can share a photo or video using the AR experience on Instagram or Facebook Story, tagging @hudsonsbay and using the hashtag #MyBayHolidayWindow for a chance to win one of five $1,000 gift cards to shop in-store and on*.

The unique QR code can be found at select Hudson’s Bay stores, on The Bay’s social media channels, on The Bay gift cards, and on packages ordered on throughout the holiday season.

“For more than 100 years, these holiday windows have been quintessential to the Toronto experience,” says Alexander Meyer, Chief Customer Officer at The Bay. “With the digital transcendence of this year’s windows, we are creating a whole new level of connectivity for our customers, not only in Toronto but throughout Canada.”1

The Bay’s Christmas Windows: 2022

The windows this year did not really lend themselves to still images as all the objects were in motion; instead I’ve captured a little video of each of the five window vignettes:

Mail-Room Department
The inner workings of the technology used to scan, sort and process all of Santa’s letters. A giant computer spits out a list of names while a map of the globe gives Santa directions to find all the boys and girls around the world.
Ornament-Making Department
A snapshot of how some signature ornaments are painted and detailed with precision and care. A giant mechanical hand carefully selects each colour to be applied before the finished crafts are sent out for people to decorate their homes.
Gifting Department
A glimpse into all of the parcels being wrapped, sorted and packed by robots working in sync to keep up with the flow of presents coming down the conveyor belt. Plus, new technology allows onlookers to press a button on the glass and one very friendly robot will want to give you a high-five and take a selfie.
Candy Cane Department
A look at how the magical treats are made and gently packaged with a robotic arm before being dropped into queue to be sent in Santa’s sleigh and delivered to the children of the globe.
Snow-Making Department
Ever wonder how snow is actually made? A bounty of magical frozen flakes come to life in this winter wonderland. Passersby can snap photos in adult and kid-sized cutouts on the exterior of the windows and join in with the snow angels.

A Few Christmas’s Ago…

Christmas 2018 was a great year for The Bay’s Christmas windows. Here’s a few of the windows from that season:

1 Hudson’s Bay Invites Canadians to Step ‘Inside’ Its Iconic Holiday Windows With a Whimsical AR Experience