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Winners of the high street Christmas battle – by iD’ Experiential’s Laura Leonard

by on January 9, 2014 in Lead story, Research, Retail, Retail News

The fight for Christmas has become a fierce competition over the last few years with the department stores Christmas adverts being as eagerly anticipated as Santa. Now all the mince pies and mulled wine have been consumed, iD’ Experiential Group Account Director, Laura Leonard (pictured) reflects on which retailers triumphed during the Christmas period.

2013’s initial winner is undoubtedly John Lewis who has recently announced sales were up 1.2% with record sales in city centre stores on Monday 23rd December. However their high street rivals, Debenhams have not fared so well with a profit warning issued this week.

But with a similar offering how is it that John Lewis have once again won the battle for Christmas on the high street? In my opinion, the answer is creating an integrated consumer experience that follows through from the customer’s living room via their TV and smartphone, to front of store and finally on to the shop floor. John Lewis began this approach last year with their Snowman campaign (read the blog about this, by Claire Hutchings, iD’s Marketing Manager) however 2013 seemed to build on this integrated yet emotional approach even further.

The “Bear and The Hare” ad campaign created an emotional connection with shoppers that was echoed through to the shop windows depicting a woodland scene including 188 animal sculptures, made from over 7000 everyday products sold in John Lewis – for example, a reindeer sculpted from Dyson vacuums, penguins fashioned from kettles, and a turkey made from towels. In 11 stores they built replicas of the bear’s cave which families could have their photos taken in, this helped to personalise and enhance the shopping experience, leaving a lasting impression and something to go on and share.

The amazing John Lewis and Peter Jones Christmas windows 2013

Twitter accounts for the Bear and Hare attracted 6,000 followers gaining greater reach and a more in-depth connection with consumers.  On the shop floor John Lewis also continued their long standing commitment to customer service through their stores own staff and additional product demonstrators. It is testament to John Lewis’ approach to enhanced customer service that half of our 10,000 demonstration days delivered in the festive period were in their department stores.

Unlike John Lewis, Debenhams’ TV advert was product focused; did you notice the only product included in the Bear and a Hare ad was an alarm clock?  This then didn’t allow Debenhams the opportunity to create an integrated experience within store that spoke to shoppers on an emotional level.  This coupled with a general decline in sales throughout the year proved to be a unhappy ending to 2013 for Debenhams.  However they’re currently investing in store refits to improve the shopper experience, so could 2014 be a better year for Debenhams?

John Lewis is committed to creating an experience for shoppers in store. While to many, their investment in marcoms may seem obscene, the figures speak for themselves; their experience and emotion led approach certainly seems to work at Christmas.

However – customer experience is not just for Christmas! The challenge for John Lewis and their competitors alike is to continue to offer this experience to shoppers throughout the year. While Christmas is the biggest retail opportunity of the year – it certainly isn’t the only one! The key is to use an integrated approach to create a personal connection with shoppers, through clever social media, emotive above the line marketing and most importantly an experiential approach to the in store environment that delivers an exceptional shopper experience.

Vox Pops International took to the streets to find out what was the favourite Christmas ad of the season

Northerners have gone soft – they’re 20% more likely to have cried at the #bearandhare than Southerners / Jaywing


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