Creating Christmas Shopping Crawls – A local activation element of #indiexmas for #indieretail

It’s 25th July – it’s possibly going to be the hottest day of the year (about time). Why then am I blogging about Christmas shopping crawls? Well, I’ve been inspired by Banbury who have run a month-long shopping crawl to celebrate independent retailer month. I’ve also chatted to the USA team who organise shopping crawls all the time and I am convinced that a fun, social, competitive approach to driving footfall to local retailers WILL make a BIG difference to hundreds of our towns this Christmas.

What is “Independent Christmas” anyway?

The Independent Christmas campaign is a new campaign, launching in 2012, and a spin-off from the well-established Independent Retailer Month (IRM). The B2C aspect of IRM originates at the local and community level, with the retailers at the forefront, supported by local press, media, councils and other organisations. Retailers and local business organisations in communities across the UK work together in their specific locale to create a month-long celebration of Independents. The objective is to draw local people back to their cities, towns and village centres where these businesses sell goods, and services, to consumers.

The Independent Christmas campaign, or “Indie Xmas”, runs for the 6 weeks prior to Christmas day, from 12th November 2012. It will include both B2B and B2C aspects. The B2C element will encourage consumers to divert a proportion of their Christmas spending – be that on gift and food shopping, partying or pampering – with local, independent businesses. The campaign will therefore be inclusive the wider group of “retail” businesses – in fact all those who serve consumers – bars, restaurants and salons as well as more traditional shops.

The message to consumers will be that buying from an Independent guarantees them a more unique experience. We’ll highlight that if they are looking for a bit of indulgence at this celebratory time of year, wanting to find unusual gifts, unique outfits, delicious treats, and enjoy special occasions, they should explore their local independents. This is the perfect opportunity to give independent businesses a real boost in sales; already c. 30% of their annual sales are achieved in the 6 weeks before Christmas, an incremental increase during the peak period could make a significant difference to their bottom line. The B2B element, much like Independent Retailer Month, will centre on providing retailers will the motivation, inspiration and activation to launch the campaign in their local area and get the message out to local consumers.

And what is a “Christmas Shopping Crawl”?

A shopping crawl, rather like a pub crawl, is a planned route around participating shops. It’s perfect for Christmas shopping as it can introduce consumers to retailers that they may not usually visit and as a Christmas shopping crawl is designed to help them procure gifts, treats and indulgences the impulse purchase is positively encouraged! The crawl can include service providers too – salons, restaurants, bars – there is no requirement to spend but to complete the crawl you do have to “pop in”!

It’s flexible / adaptable at town centre level but in essence it involves:

  1. A local activation partner co-ordinates at town centre level – that may be a rep from ATCM, AMT, FSB, Enterprise Rockers or another organisation / individual. It may even be a local proactive retailer willing to take this on.
  2. The activation partner encourages as many smaller, independent retailers as possible to agree to participate in the Christmas Shopping Crawl, this should aim to include a wide mix of retailers in the locale, town centre based and also those in less prominent positions.
  3. A map or route is drawn up – any participating retailer can be the start and end point. The route passes by all the participating retailers.
    1. We could also denote retailers involved in local shop crawls on the UK Shops Directory at – thus promoting the crawl to anyone looking for shops in an area.
  4. A shopper collects a route map at any participating retailer – they are encouraged to use social tools like Foursquare to check in at each location on the route (bringing some social content into this as well). They can take as long as they need to complete the crawl but they do need to get a “stamp” from each shop to prove they visited!
    1. A stamp is for a visit, no purchase is necessary.
  5. The completed map, with a full set of “stamps” is handed / posted back to the activation partner.  There must be a reward for completing the route – e.g. entry into a prize draw… if not there is little point in participating.

How does a shopping crawl work practically?

Obviously there are overheads to implementing all of this. I hope to be able to get much of this sponsored as part of the B2C campaign. That would generate funds that would contribute to print costs and design templates.

I see that the overheads would include:

  1. Graphic design to put together the local map in a clear and readable way, design of window posters that tell customers the shop is part of the crawl
  2. Print of the maps and posters
  3. Provision of maps, stamps, window posters and “briefing document” for all participating retailers
  4. Provision of a prize fund
  5. Local administration / management – a point of contact
  6. Online content – promotion via – to have a page per crawl taking place, to promote each local area’s plans and to have some kind of “indicator” on each of the participating retailer’s lisings.

I would like to think participating retailers might put £X (tbc) into a “kitty” to help fund their allocation of maps and posters and to contribute to the prize fund. It would not be a major ask, given the opportunity to be involved should generate considerable local awareness and uplifted sales. They could upgrade their involvement to a higher level as well, if they wanted an advertising feature / voucher or special offer promoted via the maps given out to consumers.

Subject to sponsorship, our designers could develop a template for the maps that perhaps a local volunteer designer could simply add the unique local content to. We could do it all centrally but I’m hoping hundreds of towns decide to get involved and make that impractical! We can certainly design the window posters for participating retailers though, and if we use a single design across the whole of the UK it will recognisable to consumers and be something a sponsor might go for!!!

I am sure with a sizeable order we can get the printing overheads minimised, print can be centrally produced and then shipped to each town activation partner who can then onward distribute materials to the participating retailers… This would be one area where an overall sponsor would be useful, to help mitigate the costs, but similarly if we have a kitty in each area it will also help cover the materials costs.

The prize fund could be sponsored, or come from the contribution that participating retailers have made – it would be a great incentive to have a £1000 top prize and say 10 x £100 prizes in each participating town… that requires a fund of £2000… Not an impossible task.

Finally, local administration really is just someone to collect all the completed maps and undertake the prize draw and issuing of the prizes. Hopefully that won’t prove too much for the local activation partner to undertake!

So, who wants to garner the support of their town to have a Christmas Shopping Crawl?

I am sure the ideas will evolve and each town can interpret it their way, there needs to be some framework, to ensure if we make promises to sponsors we can deliver on those, but, anyone who gives feedback now certainly has the chance to shape this plan into what it will become in just a few short months!

So, here’s to a very merry Indie Christmas 🙂

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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17 Responses to Creating Christmas Shopping Crawls – A local activation element of #indiexmas for #indieretail

  1. Pingback: From Independent Retailer Month to an Independent Christmas #indieretail creates #indiexmas | Independent Retail

  2. Awesome idea!! Let’s arrange one ourselves!!

    We can spread the word via twitter and get a whole bunch of people together as a shining example of how it can be done!!

    Where do you want to do it?

    • Clare Rayner says:

      Actually Bedford Town Team are already saying “let’s do it” and Bridgend have shown an interest too. Stirling also commented about doing this. Banbury have been doing it throughout July!!!!!!!

      St Albans makes sense to me, many indie shops and some rather lovely little “off the beaten track” areas around the Cathedral… My concern is to get a heavy-weight sponsor behind it so we can create some fab posters and maps templates!!! Know anyone?!

      • great! St Albans it is!! Now to decide when!

      • Clare Rayner says:

        Claire? When? HUH? This shopping crawl is part of Indie Christmas and would be effective from 12th November for 6 weeks. All participating retailers have maps to give out, stampers to mark off customer visits (no purchase necessary, but they can obviously use the visit as an opportunity to engage) and then ALL get window posters. This isn’t a 1-day random thing, this is a sustained 6-week activity to support Indie Xmas 🙂

      • I’ll put my thinking cap on, trouble with “heavy weight” sponsors is Independent Retailers tend to be smaller businesses. How about approaching local councils? Local Chambers of Commerce to sponsor them?

      • Clare Rayner says:

        Claire, we are talking about creating c. 2000 large format window posters to be shipped to 1000 outlets (or more!) We need someone, e.g. Visa, PayPal or other “consumer brand” to show their support for local high streets and to have their branding in 1000 shop windows in return for a financial contribution that enables this to gain traction.
        Local councils have no money, they are making cuts… Perhaps *some* who got the £100,000 high street innovation fund could contribute, but frankly I find that if a couple of big names support, as part of their CSR agenda or as part of their own brand awareness then that will help reduce the main overheads.
        At a local level the local activation partner could garner local support to produce their own crawl maps etc. Councils may even be willing to help with that element of cost, but, and this tends to be best, asssume ZERO help from councils and if there IS some help available then that is a lovely surprise!!!
        FSB have been great in Indie Month producing posters and flyers, so there is a chance they will help – certainly early feedback says that they are willing to do some of the leg-work and act as the local activation partners…
        I really hope to get 100 towns on board with this. That may be 20-50 shops per location. We’ll promote it all centrally via web (and need sponsor to help finance all of that), we’ll make a mobile-compatible crawl list to supplement the paper maps and we’ll use social and viral to get word out. So, in terms of sponsors, as long as they’re not the type who are damaging to smaller businesses then I think the benefit they bring is appropriate and the indies will welcome that someone, somewhere is helping them!

  3. Hi!
    What a fantastic idea and also ties in perfectly with the Totally Locally campaign which the small Market town in which we are located has just agreed to to go ahead with… Will feedback on crawl success.. Brilliant, simple, effective… Thank you!

    Kirsten Bridge
    Lily and Lime

    Melbourne, South Derbyshire

    • Clare Rayner says:

      We’ll now we’ve got several towns interested I can begin to speak to potential national campaign sponsors who will hopefully help to fund design and print of window posters for all those involved – if 1000 shops need 2 posters each, big jazzy ones, that’s going to already hit us for at least £5000 – so I’ll see what I can muster on this to ensure we are making it as cost neutral and as beneficial as possible for all!
      I’ll also speak to a few people about thoughts on creating their local prize fund by getting all the local retailers to put a contribution into a kitty. I think there should be a minimum of £20 per retailer but higher-ticket / higher-end boutiques who take higher average transaction values might consider giving a little more.
      In terms of local maps if we do a template design, to add your route to, and provide “spaces” on the template for advertising that’s a way that the cost of production at the local level can be moderated – plus, A4 double sided, full colour on digital print will likely be under 25p per map on high number, and I’d suggest each participating retailer gets 100… perhaps a local printer would do it free in lieu of advertising on them all for example…. there are many ways to get this done so all benefit and it’s positive.
      So exciting to have such a up-beat response on this!

  4. Rachael says:

    Would really love Stratford-upon-Avon to do this. Will tweet from us @the_arter to spread the word!

    • Clare Rayner says:

      Fab – what we need is a local activation partner to co-ordinate for you… Do you have a town centre manager / local FSB rep / Enterprise Rocker or similar? Different people in each town can be the catalyst and your local activation partner can do the co-ordination. Then, those who come to the kick-start events in October will get more advice on how to 1) run the crawl and 2) make the most of the footfall… e.g. Man on the crawl may need to visit a beauty salon to get a stamp… so he may have no interest in what they offer BUT the smart salon owner gives him a special offer for whoever wants it – it may be him, it may be a partner or a friend – the key is that brings SOMEONE back who they can then *wow* with the service experience and win a new customer. Of course the cafes / bars on the crawl can be mixed in to ensure that participants get time for a warming drink and loo-stop… ! I think in the main people are going to really enjoy doing this, it’ll be fun! Stores can really make a big splash of their involvement and the whole community are helping drive footfall to each other, introducing customers to what they offer who may not ordinarily have made the effort to visit!

  5. Great idea. We’re a creative lot in Oxfordshire you know!

  6. Pingback: Why I think creating virtual high streets only damages the real high street | AMT Public

  7. Karen says:

    Sounds like a great idea – is anyone in Aberaeron, Ceredigion organising this?

  8. Pingback: Christmas Shopping Crawls – Have an Independent Christmas | Sightcare

  9. Pingback: Consumer revolution, retail evolution, innovation | AMT Public

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