How soon is too soon to implement your Christmas window display?

As we’re well and truly past back to school many of the big retailers are already ramping up for Christmas. Some have been slated in the past for implementing their Christmas windows as early as September… With Halloween and Bonfire night still a while away I was surprised to be asked for an interview in JULY for a magazine printed in last month that was all about Christmas display! If you’re interested in what I said read on!

How soon should I dress my windows with Christmas displays?

This is a really difficult question to give a definitive answer to – in some locations your neighbouring shops will begin their festive feature windows early (some as early as September!), in other areas very late (into December). If you are in an area where the windows are dressed early then perhaps try and include an element of change, so they don’t get dull. Depending on the type of local passing traffic you might want to refresh something about your window weekly – to feature a different aspect of your festive merchandise or a different focus for your products.

If you local neighbouring retailers don’t implement festive windows early and you feel you are missing out on a sales opportunity then a good time to go into Christmas display is immediately after Halloween and Bonfire night (if you are doing anything special to dress your window for then). The nights are drawing in and consumers begin to realise that before they know it Christmas will be upon them – your window needs to remind them of that AND draw them in!

What top tips do you have to make my festive windows really stand out without costing a fortune?

The most effective window displays include a “call to action” – like any form of advertising / marketing media the window isn’t just about a competition for who can create the most appealing display to brighten up the walk down the high street! Your window must draw consumers into the shop and include compelling reasons why they should buy from you…

What that includes will vary massively based on your offering, your customer base, your location and your preferences. As Christmas is one of the most important trading periods for most retailers across the UK it doesn’t make sense to cut too many corners on costs – granted a full animatronics display to rival Hamleys or Selfridges will cost an absolute fortune and would likely be overkill – but a well designed festive theme, with some decent artwork and point of sale might be a very valuable investment from which you reap considerable rewards.

My advice would be to speak to a designer who specialises in retail branding, visual merchandising and packaging (like the lovely folks at Rubber Cheese – – they will have a very good understanding of how to use design to influence the consumer and the operational considerations for implementing a quality window in a smaller retailer.

Secondly I’d suggest you do a bit of analysis on your product range – what items make you the most cash margin? If you can feature these items and include them in your Christmas displays, perhaps demonstrating how these items are crucial to achieving a key look that you’ve show cased to the consumer then you’ll see an uplift in sales… which, given you’ve picked out your most profitable products will translate to a good uplift in bottom line too!

I don’t want to range lots of specific Christmas merchandise because I don’t want surplus stock at the end of season. Is there another way to get the festive feel into my shop from my existing range?

I am a great believer in allowing your customer data to be the best advice about your business – if you review your previous festive season sales performance you will get a great deal of insight as to what YOUR unique customer base want to buy from you, and, in what quantity.

If you discover in the past Christmas merchandise has been profitable, but perhaps low volume, then order less – you can feature items as “when it is gone it is gone” to encourage those who do want that kind of product to buy now to avoid disappointment. Of course if the supplier minimums are too high perhaps you can negotiate with them about reducing the minimums, or, sell the surplus stock on ebay or Amazon market place for instance!

If it is actually a case that your core product range sells well during the festive season then that’s the answer – you need to really make a “wow” impactful display from the items that you know will sell best – you don’t need to run discounts or promotions, unless you want to or have supplier support to invigorate sales. The key is to feature what your customers want to see in an exciting and engaging way.

Should I run special offers and promotions at Christmas; many of the chains seem to run a “before-end-of-season-sale” – what should I be doing?

Finally, when it comes to promotions a lot of retailers I work with fall foul of assuming that a promotion means a discount – and typically they just end up giving away margin. If the bigger retailers need to shift volume or “buy” footfall (by offering aggressive discounts to secure more customers) then they can – but it isn’t sustainable. You’re best to not try to compete on aggressive pricing and instead look at ways to appear to be running promotions without engaging in a price-war!

My advice for festive promotions includes:

  1. Feature products people want to buy – give them the best possible position in the store, with clear signage. Consider giving away advice and ideas as to how to use the products – this is a value add that won’t cost you much to do (printing a flyer for instance) and will given the consumer greater confidence to buy the items
  2. Offer a “mix and match” promotion – e.g. select up to 3 items from a group of products and get a free gift or a 4th (smaller item) free
  3. You can even offer a competition – you could get customers to take photos of themselves using your merchandise – if you sell cookware what about a photo of someone cooking dinner with your items? Invite them to send in their photos or to share them on your facebook page. You can pick a winner, perhaps at random, and give them a prize / gift. The key here is you are creating a “conversation” with your customers – engaging with them, inviting them to share a bit of their daily lives with you AND to show off how they use your products!
  4. If you have a loyal customer base or a customer database you might even want to run an evening event – open the shop to guests, have a party with some drinks and nibbles (maybe a local wine bar would collaborate with you to do this) and have some fun! Getting people in your shop who are really enjoying interacting with you, your product and each other can really help you to stand out from the crowd this Christmas, and, beyond!

About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
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