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information about the ingredients used in the display, giving people the chance to win a giftcard by guessing the number of baubles or the weight of glitter used - it proved hugely successful with 1m people engaging with the campaign on Facebook. The centre also gave away a VIP parking space each day attracting 3,000 entries and representing a high level of engagement for a small investment. And all the hard work paid off - the

indoor train ride was used by 68,000 people, 35,000 people visited Father Christmas in the grotto and photo sales were up 64 per cent on 2011.

CHARITY An integral part of thecentre:mk’s Christmas show is the coin collecting Wishing Pool. Raising over £11,000 last year for beneficiary Age UK Milton Keynes, a charity focused on supporting senior citizens in the area , it was a 177 per cent increase on the previous year’s donations and the highest amount raised by the Wishing Pool since 2008. The 188,028 coins - including 80,749 one-pence coins, 46,981 two-pence coins and 24,542 five-pence coins - were dried, sorted and counted by volunteers, helped by staff from Age UK Milton Keynes, John Lewis, Accenture and Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue service.

Beck puts the Wishing Pool’s 2012

success down to an overhaul designed to make it more enticing, as she explains: “We upgraded the Wishing Pool last year. We’d seen a decline in people throwing money into it in previous years so we added interactive frogs - those who hit the right ones with their coins were rewarded with a light show and thanked for their donation. We went from collecting £4,000 in 2011 to well over £11,000 in 2012 just by turning it into a game and adding that little bit of interactivity.” “It’s very important for us to be part of the community and Christmas is a great opportunity to do that,” she adds. “The penetration of the regional catchment was phenomenal but we’ve created a monster - it’s so successful it’s going to be difficult to improve but we’re going to continue to build on it.”

Find out more: For more information, please contact the author: FEBRUARY 2013 SHOPPING CENTRE

Melbry Events makes way for Wish4Ticket

Many of the industry’s marketing and events teams will know Melanie Hurley as the founder and director of Melbry Events. But the liquidation of the company after nearly 21 years, announced in early February, has forced Hurley to turn her back on seasonal event management.

Hurley appeared on the Dragon’s Den

Christmas special in December last year. She failed to secure investment but the Dragons’ advice made her to take stock of the business, signalling her decision to focus on sister company, Wish4Ticket. The idea was that Melbry Events would be run on the sidelines. But it was too late to save. “Last year was really tough, the events

side just doesn’t make money” says Hurley. “There are a number of newbies saturating the market and marketing budgets have been cut but while budgets are tight, expectations are higher - people want a Disney experience for a Poundland budget but unless you have the money to create something spectacular, it’s a dying trade. “I can’t throw away 21 years of experience.

I’ve got to carry on and make the best of it. We’ve been given good advice and we’re taking it very seriously. It’s a very sad time for us but it’s a sign of the times. We were the first to fall but I don’t think we’ll be the last.” There have been reports that temporary staff employed by Hurley to man grottos over

the Christmas period haven’t been paid, but Hurley says she’s doing all she can to support those affected. “There’s been a lot in the press that I’ve taken all the money I owe people but that’s just not true. The reason we can’t pay staff is down to bad cash flow, but we’re doing our best to look after those that haven’t been paid.”

Having to turn her back on event

management, Hurley is now focusing on online ticketing service, Wish4Ticket, which she says has one of the biggest databases of children under 16 in the UK. Before Melbry Events failed, Hurley had invested £200,000 in a back office package for Wish4Ticket. The new suite will provide shopping centre

managers who use the company to manage box office and ticket sales for their family events - including ice rinks and grottos - to view live statistics and receive automatic customer feedback. “People want the figures now,” says

Hurley. “They want to know how many people attended the event, what time they visited and where they came from. At the click a button, landlords and managers will be able to pull out information and do analysis and it can be streamlined across portfolios, so they can see what’s happening across all sites.” Hurley says she is in talks with a number

of centre owners.

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