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Why High Street Retail is Advent-ageous this Christmas

Why High Street Retail is Advent-ageous this Christmas

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It’s that time of the year again: fairy-lights laden the streets, brisk air scented with the charm of roasted chestnuts, warm winter jumpers and hot mulled wine. I mention it because, it’s exactly what retail needs to capitalise on. We hear again and again how the future of retail is online, and it is, in part. However, the Christmas season really shows you how alive street shopping remains. It is experiential retail at it’s best. And in this instance, Christmas is the definition of why brick-and-mortar retail will never go out of fashion.

Black Friday is really the commencement of the retail Christmas season. As predicted, we saw a surge in online sales. The accessibility to browse and shop, anytime, anywhere, meant people could pounce on sales at their leisure. And yet, that isn’t the trend we see moving into December. We see people once again getting out onto the streets. It’s an extravaganza for experiential retail.

Interestingly, experiential retail is no new fad. Think about the Santa’s Grotto, the first of which was set up in JR Robert’s store in 1888. Stores have included animatronic reindeers that nod their head, and toy elves that swing a hammer with a simple motor, all for the promotion of an in-store experience. Walking down Oxford Street, London – you’re struck by window displays, John Lewis, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges – which at their best create a spectacle, and even crowds gathered around. In less elaborate ways, Christmas decorations and staff costumes can add to an in-store experience by aligning with the festive season.

When you look at the top 10 days of sales in the retail calendar, astonishingly 8 of them are in December. The infamous ‘Super Saturday’ (the Saturday before Christmas), used to hold the title for most sales, but has since been overtaken by Black Friday. Despite being renowned for a day of high spending, Christmas Eve is surprisingly low in terms of expenditure. This indicates a cultural shift towards the whole period as a prolonged shopping spree, leaving Christmas Eve as a lastminute.com

I’m happy. Not just because I’m a fan of Christmas, but also because as a fan of omni-channel retail, it’s great to see the streets shine during December! It looks like online retail, though ahead in so many ways, still cannot replicate sensory, nostalgic, experiential shopping, something brick-and-mortar needs to capitalise on and use as a model throughout the year.