Opinion

Christmas essentials

While we all appreciate the need for the current guidelines, you can’t help but feel the pain of those in the industry deemed as ‘non-essential’ at this crucial time of year. Especially Indies. Their doors forced to remain closed, while watching many of the larger retailers taking on sales on the same items.

But while much of retail is covered by this cloud, there are also countless examples of the industry doing what it has always done best. It’s important (now more than ever) to celebrate the outstanding visionaries making pace across the market. Retailers are not only working with what they have; they are pushing the boundaries to deliver in this most important quarter.

Window shopping

Nothing says Christmas more than the festive window reveal. And some retailers have been embracing new ways to share the festive spirit. Take Fenwicks in Newcastle, which live streamed the big reveal to thousands of its followers—ensuring that they keep the Christmas dream and connection with their loyal customers very much alive, while physically keeping them off the streets.

Waitrose has recently also run its annual Food and Drinks festival as a virtual event, allowing for a much wider audience access to take part in live cooking lessons and virtual masterclasses. Meanwhile John Lewis has launched its virtual Christmas tree app, enabling consumers to ‘try before they buy’ in the comfort of their homes.

Season’s greetings

For me, Selfridge’s is one of the standouts. The focus on their ‘normal’ Christmas elaborateness and theatrical elements remain. But they’ve broadened their package to suit the needs of their customers. Their tagline “We’re bringing our store experience to you”, says it all.

Virtual dial-a-Santa meet and greets. Free Santa workshops for making cards and table decorations in your own home. Video calls for gift giving advice from their yearly ‘Elfridges’. Support to build a food hamper from their food concierge. Virtual beauty and personal styling appointments… the list goes on.

Little helpers

Most noticeable are not just those who have turbo-charged their vision or accelerated the pace of delivery for what were ‘future’ propositions, but those that have thought differently and worked with other businesses and brands in a spirit of ‘in it together’ and mutual benefit. It’s a way of working here at Visual Thinking that forms part of our everyday lives. Partner for success. Raise the stakes. Think differently. Stay ahead of the game.

A number of ‘partnering’ groups have popped up. Now you can collect your Sweaty Betty order from your local Waitrose, or Nespresso shopping from your John Lewis Click and Collect station. And when we can physically go back through the real doors (everything crossed) customers will be able to also use the Royal Mail X Selfridges one-stop-shop and ship service. All with the essence of making it easier, quicker and safer for everyone.

Part of M&S’s ‘Never the same again’ programme to accelerate its transformation includes partnering up with the ELC to strengthen its childrenswear proposition, along with the first tie-up with sustainable fashion label Nobody’s Child. It’s proved to be a successful approach for rivals Next. But will it hit the same mark for them? Only time will tell.

It’s often said that if you remove adversity, you remove ingenuity and creativity with it. For retailers of every size and the countless companies, like ourselves, who continue to support them, 2020 has truly asked all of us to put the foot on the gas. To accelerate the pace of delivery. Not planning for tomorrow. But taking action today. Remaining forward thinking and alive to every opportunity that exists, and to those that are yet to come.

By Suzanne Tanner

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