The leisurely window-shopper might be forgiven for feeling rather ambivalent towards Christmas, a time of lavish shop-displays – and of crowds of people getting in the way. Google’s latest online tool solves this problem, by allowing you to tread the streets of world shopping capitals such as London and New York. The tool, Google Maps Business View, allows surfers to avoid the cold weather, heavy bags and huge numbers of people associated with Oxford Street or Fifth Avenue at this time of year. It is similar to Google Street view – where the facades of properties on public highways can be viewed – but the shop-fronts of various flagship stores have been updated to show their festive window displays. It is also possible to take a 360-degree tour of the stores. From the comfort of your own home, you can browse the sparkling display at Liberty, which is awash with gold – and toys – or salivate with wonder at the gingerbread house at Selfridges nearby.
Meanwhile, in New York, the department store Saks Fifth Avenue has been turned into a fairy-tale world called Once Upon a Time in NYC, complete with a Cinderella magical carriage. Santa and his Elves are hard at work at Macy’s ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ in Herald Square, and at Bloomingdale’s, the New Year’s Eve party has apparently already kicked off. The Business Map tool also allows users to look inside world famous stores, including Old Navy in San Francisco or Benetton in Moscow. Google users can click the ‘see inside’ marker when they search for shops on the maps app, or when they use the search engine.