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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We could also denote retailers involved in local shop crawls on the UK Shops Directory at www.independentshops.co.uk – thus promoting the crawl to anyone looking for shops in an area.
- 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!
- A stamp is for a visit, no purchase is necessary.
- 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:
- 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
- Print of the maps and posters
- Provision of maps, stamps, window posters and “briefing document” for all participating retailers
- Provision of a prize fund
- Local administration / management – a point of contact
- Online content – promotion via www.independentshops.co.uk – 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 🙂