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7 ANALYSIS It’s Showtime...

With Christmas approaching the UK’s major centres are pulling out all the stops to bring in the shoppers

With Christmas on the horizon, shopping centres across the country are gearing up to open their elaborate family shows and unveil this year’s choice of festive decorations. The Trafford Centre and thecentre:mk are two malls with big plans incorporating new ideas to entice visitors and utilise commercialisation opportunities while also thinking about sustainability. thecentre:mk opened its spectacular

Storyland Adventure Christmas show – set up in the centre’s 20,000-sq ft exhibition space, Middleton Hall - on November 19. The show features an indoor ferris wheel, double- decker carousel and five novelty scenes including a crystal forest, wishing well, grotto and giant Christmas tree. There is also an area where local bands, choirs and a nativity will entertain audiences. The whole show is designed to feel as if

visitors are walking around inside a pop-up book. It will include interactive elements including a barcode on the entrance ticket, which when presented in front of a screen will produce a 3D fairy that the children can play with and stars they can chase around the Christmas tree. This year’s characters – tin soldier, ragdoll,

Santa and bear – have been designed by a Disney illustrator to advertise the show and the centre’s cleaning and maintenance staff will have the opportunity to take part in the grand parade dressed as toys. And management have also thought

about sustainability. As Melanie Beck, marketing manager at the centre, explained: “We have teamed up with [design and display specialists] LDJ to create the show and Imagination are supplying the decorations. All materials used are recyclable and produced locally to LDJ in Yorkshire.” To feed into commercialisation there is

a ‘Wishlist Lane’ where independent retailers sell seasonal food and gifts from RMUs and, while the rest of the show is free, visitors pay a small fee to visit Santa in the grotto. “Last year it cost £7.50,” said Beck. “This year it’s only £3.50 - it’s our way of helping parents and responding to the post-recession climate.” Here again, the environment is a top

priority with Santa giving children a choice between taking home a toy or a tree sapling to plant at home. Charity is another dimension – all the money collected in the wishing well will be given to two good causes. Half the money will go towards an ambulance used by the RSPCA to save small animals within the community and the rest will help the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust to buy easy-access chairs for people with acquired brain injuries. The Trafford Centre in Manchester is also putting on a big but quite different show. At the end of October a host of celebrities including chart-topping Olly Murs and fellow X-factor contestant Jamie ‘Afro’ Archer unveiled the extensive Christmas lights display. The display - supplied by KD Decoratives

- includes 30,000 baubles sourced from Finland, some of which use animatronics to open and close, more than 10,000 jewels, 58,000 holly leaves, 3,000 icicles, 1,000m of Christmas garland, 280,000 LED light bulbs, using just a third of the electricity of the old ones and a 10m high Christmas tree. There were also performances from

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure and a gala screening of the new Narnia film with Georgie Henley and other members of the

cast announcing a competition for one lucky shopper to win a VIP trip on board Dawn Treader, the ship used in the film. Gordon McKinnon, director of operations

at The Trafford Centre, described the evening as “a fantastic night out for families of all ages” and said: “The new Christmas lights have been a considerable investment for The Trafford Centre this year, as we know how important they are to our customers, who travel from all over the country to see them. And after many years of white decorative lighting, this year we’ve returned to traditional multi-coloured lights throughout the malls, which we’re sure our customers are going to love.”

With shopping centres coming up to

the busiest trading period of the year and with many malls acting as a base for the community, putting thought and careful planning into festive events and decorations can reap rewards, especially when they can be tied in with promotional activity and charity and carbon efficiency commitments.

Find out more: For more information, please contact the author or visit the website: November 2010 SHOPPING CENTRE

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