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‘Tis the Season to be Risky….

11th Dec 2015
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Walking down Oxford Street in December brings on all the usual Christmas emotions; joy at seeing the wonderful decorations, excitement at seeing kids eagerly making their lists for Father Christmas and sheer, unbridled terror at not knowing what anyone wants. 

Shopping for Christmas is an experience many of us put off until the last minute, and then instantly regret. The sight of people panic-buying the last pack of novelty socks is one that is all too familiar. What if couple X buy me something fantastic? How much did Mr and Mrs Y spend on us last year? It can all get too much, and we retreat like a hibernating bear, wishing for spring. Wake me for New Year! 

A previous boss of mine used to revel in this sense of the last minute. Every year he would challenge me to see which of us would be the first to break and buy the first Christmas present. A few times he made it until one hour before closing on Christmas Eve. I’d be lying there in bed at night, mind racing, planning what to get everyone. It brings on a cold sweat just thinking about it now. Why would anyone do this to themselves? And yet year-after-year we do. 

Last year we ran a campaign in the window of a well-known high street retailer. We placed audience monitoring equipment on digital screens that played content designed to appeal to female shoppers. The kit is capable of telling men from women and, just as you would expect, ladies paid it the most attention throughout the Christmas shopping period. That was until the last Saturday before Christmas, and Christmas Eve itself. On those days, men dominated. Suddenly they were very interested in what they could buy something for their wives, mothers, girlfriends, daughters and nieces. They were looking in windows that they would never normally even turn their head for. They needed inspiration.

And yet when I walk down Oxford Street this year, the stores are doing the same things that they do all year long. Granted some of it is lovely and some even quite moving. John Lewis, for example, always does a wonderful job, and this year they’ve tied in their window display to make it feel like you are part of their TV adverts, but surely this is the season to have a little fun with your windows? For 11 months of the year stores can be pretty certain who buys their products. It doesn’t take a Tesco Clubcard scheme to tell you what the customers of many retailers look like. But December is different. Family and friends are forced to buy presents for people that they never normally spend money on, often with no idea at all as to what they like. Instead they walk up and down the pavements, hoping for a moment of inspiration. For once they are really paying attention to the windows. That’s a huge opportunity for those stores willing to try something different, or new. 

Surely if you’re going to try installing a die cut window projection, or holographic display, then this is the time of year to do it. Take a risk. Grab the attention of customers who are eager to reach the end of the annual shopping challenge. If it’s ever going to work, it’s going to be at Christmas!

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