Christmas in July?

It may feel like Summer is only just starting, however, retailers already have their sights firmly set on Christmas.

I will never forget at The SCEPTRE Awards 2017 (held in June), being greeted with Christmas lights and decorations all over the Dorchester! These decorations happened to be extremely topical as shopping centres and destinations globally were at that point, solidifying their Christmas campaigns. As a consumer this may sound crazy as we are only just starting to analyse our summer wardrobe and dig out old summer dresses, but for shopping centres and retailers, this is prime time to finalise and prepare for the festive season. Shopping centres and retailers start planning for Christmas as early as January, analysing the season just gone, ensuring anything that could have been improved upon is noted for the coming year.

Black Friday is becoming bigger and bigger every year and commonly marks the start of Christmas shopping. This year it will be held on 23rd November and I am sure destinations are already planning and preparing for this. The Christmas season is typically retailers biggest trading period – the 6-8 weeks running up to the big day often brings the biggest percentage of annual sales, so it is not surprising retailers are busy planning and preparing for this peak season of trading so early to ensure they capitalise on the opportunity fully.

As consumers expectations rise, shopping centres need to enhance the guest experience throughout the year, and this becomes increasingly important over Christmas. When consumers are planning their Christmas shopping, they will often dedicate a day to visit a centre to browse, select and purchase gifts. Due to this, centres need to make sure their offering is strong, enticing guests to travel to visit their scheme over another. This brings budget, operational, security and management challenges to name but a few, centres need to be innovative and creative with the campaigns they plan to implement to maximise footfall and increase dwell time.

There is so much work that goes into the festive preparations including, decorations inside and out the centre, planning the commercialisation space with grottos, gift-wrapping, ice-rinks etc. dedicating marketing budget to different platforms and ensuring facilities management teams are prepared to deal with the increased footfall. Not to mention retailer’s annual Christmas TV commercials – consumer’s anticipation for these advertisements seem to heighten year on year, really putting the pressure on brands to beat the previous year!

The Christmas period offers retailers an opportunity to thoroughly engage with their consumers with events, promotions and offer excellent customer service. Any limited promotions or discounts need to be communicated clearly, online websites need to be utilised to drive visitors in-store and the timing of discounts need to be planned tactically – it’s important retailers don’t reduce prices to early in an attempt to drive sales.

Christmas time is my favourite time to shop, everyone’s in good spirits, decorations, colours and sparkle cover all our centres and there is always plenty of events and pop-ups to enjoy! I’m already looking forward to seeing what our shopping centres have in-store for us this year…

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