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Iain Kimmins

Christmas Already?

For retailers, summer is synonymous with Christmas planning

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For those of us who work in the retail or visual merchandising industry, how many times do we hear the phrase, “Christmas already?”

It is a necessary evil of the job and when you work in visual merchandising, you are usually planning 9 to 12 months in advance. It’s part of the job.

Like so many people in the industry, Christmas planning kicks off with a visit to the European trade show Christmas World which is held every January in Frankfurt, Germany.

Christmas World is the world’s biggest trend and order platform for the international seasonal and festive decoration sector. The show brings together manufacturers and retailers, as well as major commercial buyers, from all over the world. I have been visiting the trade fair for a few years, and it is a great for inspiration and viewing the latest trends. It’s also good to catch up with familiar as well as new suppliers. After all, you never know when you need their help with an ad-hoc project that may arise.

Sadly, due to the Covid pandemic, Christmas World 2021 was cancelled, however the dates have been set for next February.

When I worked as Head of Visual Merchandising for Tangs in Singapore, I had the opportunity to source Christmas direct from various suppliers in China. It would be a long, tiring trip visiting various suppliers in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and then a flight up to Chengdu and into the deepest parts of China! These trips were so educational as it was fascinating to see how Christmas garlands and baubles are made. (Did you know a green Christmas garland starts off as strip of green tape that resembles masking tape?)

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Christmas Already?

For the retailer, summer can only mean one thing: it’s time to gear up for Christmas. This is the biggest shopping event of the year, and for many retailers it accounts for up to 30 percent of their annual revenue in the three-month trading period to Christmas.

In London, there used to be a bit of rivalry and an air of excitement between Harrods and Selfridges to see who could open their Christmas shop first. This always happens towards the end of August. Having worked at Harrods for a number of years, and then at Selfridges as VM Manager, it was an exciting time working behind the hoarding to create a stunning Christmas wonderland. Once the Christmas shop opened, you would overhear customers saying, “Christmas already?” What customers don’t understand is the planning that is required and the huge volume of Christmas merchandise that the store had bought, so they must start selling it as soon as it is commercially viable. By opening the Christmas shops in August, the stores are educating the consumers as to what is available and, of course, with this being London, the stores are catering to the tourists who would devour a London Christmas bauble to take back home with them.

Our collective thinking caps will be on again in a few months’ time to start the initial ideas, sketches and plans for Christmas 2022.  Despite the pandemic, many senior figures in retail who I have been speaking to are feeling positive about the trading period to Christmas 2021. Many feel that because of the various lockdowns, consumers will want to share and have a memorable Christmas this year. We must ensure that stores have an abundance of merchandise and from a visual point of view, the stores are opulent and give plenty of retail theater. This is definitely something you cannot find when shopping online.

Iain Kimmins is a creative visual merchandising professional with experience working for stores such as Harrods and Selfridges in London to Tangs in Singapore. As the Owner/Founder of consultancy Creative Download, as well as serving as the Chair of The British Display Society, Iain has worked on projects in Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, New York, Dubai and Shanghai, among others. Iain’s passion and enthusiasm for retail is not only about being creative, but being commercially aware as a key driver for the retail sector. www.creative-download.co.uk | www.britishdisplaysociety.co.uk

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