Sue Shepherd, general manager at LDO, talks the upcoming festive period
As it is normally the busiest time in the retail calendar, Planning for Christmas tends to start happening almost a year in advance, but a lot can happen in 12 months and plans for the busy period can change for any number of reasons, and as much as we’d all like to be, not everyone is ahead of the game. We spoke to Sue Shepherd, general manager at London Designer Outlet, about last minute preparations.
When does the Christmas hype campaign generally start? Do you have a set strategy of what’s going to happen when?
Christmas is our biggest retail period of the year. Once the autumn festivities are over, the consumer shifts to a Christmas mindset and we are then full steam ahead on implementing the Christmas campaign.
Wembley Park is a year-round destination but the Christmas period is a particularly special one and we put strategies in place in advance to make sure it’s the best it can be. Planning for Christmas is a big job and we have to be meticulous in planning and executing it from start to finish.
Are there any details and plans generally left last minute/closer to the event?
Planning-wise we don’t leave anything to the last minute, but we do tend to retain part of the overall Christmas budget for any last-minute opportunities. Often a tenant will have a particularly compelling activity that we will want to support.
What work are you doing with retailers at this stage to co-ordinate and prepare plans for the Christmas period?
By this stage in the year we have agreed and communicated our extended trading hours, optioned all media space for the festive season and the installation of the lights. Our Retail Manager works with the retailers to get a sense of what they’re planning for Christmas and we will also work with the restaurants on their Christmas menus and party planning.
We encourage our retailers to be as creative as possible with their in-store experiences over Christmas. Consumers crave experiences they can share and talk about, so it’s important our retailers offer something memorable, beyond great value product.
Also, in the run up to Christmas, we will further advertise that guests are able to buy LDO gift cards which can be redeemed in any of our 70 stores, restaurants and cafés as well as the cinema – the perfect gift for even the hardest person to buy for.
Are there any additional measures you are getting set up to cope with the increased number of visitors?
Christmas is an incredibly busy period at London Designer Outlet, both in the stores and behind the scenes, so it takes a lot of planning to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible, particularly for our guests. We always make sure all routine maintenance of things like lifts and escalators is scheduled in advance to ensure they are all running smoothly for peak trading. We’ll create a Christmas Mall Guide, which we produce every year, to make the festive period as easy as possible to navigate for visitors. It will include offers that particular brands have in store, a guide to all the entertainment taking place in Wembley Park and LDO and will also spotlight the restaurants’ festive menus.
In addition, we know our guests live very busy lifestyles, so we extend our opening hours in the days running up to Christmas to accommodate that.
Last December, LDO was the first UK shopping centre to introduce Dropit, the app-based store-to-door delivery service. The service has been extremely popular and we expect the uptake at Christmas to be particularly high. All staff at LDO are trained on this but we will put particular emphasis on it in the run up to the festive period to ensure the destination provides a really excellent customer service experience. We’ll also increase marketing around the service to ensure our guests are aware of how they can take advantage of it.
What are the most exciting things you have planned for this Christmas period? Do you have a set theme/concept/vision in mind?
We aim to create an environment that is fun and interactive, with all the festive elements you would expect from Christmas at LDO. We will create a journey that guests can follow and engage with, starting from the moment visitors arrive in Wembley Park, encompassing the full destination and offering something to discover at every turn.
How are the preparations going at this stage in comparison to last year?
We are well on track and, in fact, slightly ahead of where we were last year. We are working with our colleagues at Wembley Park to ensure that we can present the most inspirational and memorable Christmas experience for all visitors to both Wembley Park and London Designer Outlet. Our overriding vision is to present a festival of light and music that can be enjoyed by all ages and we can’t wait to share what we have up our sleeve for Christmas 2019.
And finally, is it too early to be thinking about Christmas 2020?
No, it’s never too early! We are constantly pooling ideas that we can implement in future Christmases and we also speak to our visitors to see what they would like to see and experience. We aim to make every year better than the last and inspiration can come from anywhere so our plans are always evolving.