Ask Silver Bullet

Issue 18

If Christmas shopping is going increasingly online, why do shops like Fenwicks invest so much in their Christmas windows?

By the time this learned journal sees the light of day not only will the Fenwicks window display be unveiled but the John Lewis TV advert will have debuted and, the infamous Black Friday retail weekend will have been and gone Christmas, albeit solely in the retail sense of the word, will be well and truly upon us.

So, firstly, to consider the Fenwicks window extravaganza which, according to Fenwicks, this year took German craftsmen some 2,300 hours to produce with five skilled window dressers assembling the display prior to the unveiling on November 4. This was the 45th year of the famous display which has now replaced the turning on of the Christmas lights by some minor celebrity to become the unofficial start of Christmas for Newcastle, and with costs estimated to be well over £200,000, it’s a valid question as to why the company puts so much effort and resources into this?

Whilst I obviously can’t speak for Fenwicks, the answer is as much about branding as it is about increasing turnover. Fenwicks have established themselves as THE Christmas store for Newcastle in this limited period of spending frenzy which is so important to all retailers. In reality, this year’s Beatrix Potter display has little to do with Christmas, but everything to do with establishing the warm feeling of characters recognised and loved by all ages. The window is enticing shoppers inside where even more wonders await and they’ve already created the atmosphere that helps spending. Think Christmas, think those nice people at Fenwicks is the theory, whether it’s the actual store or the web site.

The John Lewis TV advert is more of the same marketing the brand prior to marketing specific items. But, as retailers are finding to their cost, having a great brand and great looking stores isn’t enough these days when online shopping is such a major percentage of turnover.

Black Friday (the ‘Black’ refers to profit rather red referring to loss) has expanded this year to Black Fiveday covering the period from Thursday 24 to Monday 28 November, an indication of just how important the sector regards this opportunity.

An American concept, it originally referred to the Friday after Thanksgiving when retailers offered massive discounts in the run-up to Christmas. British retailers have taken the opportunity to heart and this year it’s estimated by retail consultancy firm, Salmon, that £5 billion will be spent over the five days, with £2.55 billion being spent via mobile devices crucially, the first time mobile devices have become the dominant means of purchase. It’s the ‘flash’ sale to end all flash sales with the jostling crowds and fighting of 2014 being replaced by crashing web sites last year Currys PC World, for example was selling 30 TV’s every minute on the day!

So, if you can get such great deals online, why bother decorating your store and advertising on TV? It’s all about branding, establishing your store and thereby your web site as a trusted place to do your Christmas shopping as much about where you can also get great prices. In a way, it’s almost content marketing Fenwicks and others are giving their windows free of charge to entertain the children of Newcastle, and their parents who all then relate Christmas to the Fenwick brand just as TV viewers associate John Lewis with the festive period.

In addition, whilst Christmas shopping may only last six or seven weeks, the physical store is trying to attract customers all year so promoting the brand makes perfect sense. Add to this the invaluable media coverage that such brands achieve and their investment becomes clearly understandable and very good business.

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