Christmas World at Harrods

Having worked in the VM team at Harrods for many years, I have certainly worked on many Christmas Shop set-ups. It was hard work but good fun working behind the hoarding in order to create this magical department.   In true Harrodian style, the Christmas Shop with lit garlands, sumptuous array of decorations and baubles was the start of the Festive period.

On a visit to the store a few days ago, imagine my disappointment in seeing this year’s Christmas World. In previous years, the department was spread over 2-3 rooms. Now it’s confined into just one room.

While the Christmas trees were beautifully dressed and accessorised, sadly Christmas World was lacking in retail theatre. There was the usual demonstrator selling fake snow by adding water, but where were stunning mini room-sets creating that special ambience? There was one fireplace, but blink and you would miss it

There was an excellent range of baubles and other decorations on the various fixtures and slat wall, but I can’t help thinking, who is going to buy Leopard Print Baubles at £18? Other baubles included Hot Mustard, Coca-Cola, Soya Sauce and a Chinese bauble complete with chop sticks for a staggering £24.

I am not sure who their target market is. With a single Christmas cards at £6 and rolls of gift-wrap at £9, they are certainly not catering for the London tourists.

Now I’m looking forward to the launch of the Christmas Shop at Fortnum & Mason. This will certainly be a visually stunning feast for the eyes.

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Back To School

Although the schools and colleges have recently finish for the summer holidays, retailers should be installing their Back To School windows. As with any concept, VM teams should be thinking and planning 6-9 months in advance.

Here are some excellent inspirational window concepts from my files. Anything from fashion to chairs to over-sized pencils. The concept does not always have to relate to kids and stationery products. Back To School windows should be fun and a riot of colour and props. These windows should be inspiring and creative, as kids hate going back to school!

Given the strength of On-Line shopping retailers, with the help of the VM teams, stores should be stepping up a gear to ensure that all important ‘wow factor’ with creating retail theatre with both the window concepts and in-store presentation. It’s very much like the phrase “You Don’t Get A Second Chance To Make A First Impression”

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The other side of Retail.

I thought this week’s blog would be slightly different. As you may be aware, I have worked in the Visual Merchandising for over 20 years and my career spans working at stores such as Harrods and Selfridges in London and more recently as Head of Visual Merchandising for Tangs in Singapore.

I am now the founder of Creative Download and over my career I have had the wonderful opportunity to work on some fantastic projects where I have lived and worked in New York, Shanghai, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Switzerland and Singapore. It is quite satisfying to know that retailers outside of the UK, like the British approach to Visual Merchandising and Store Presentation.

I am extremely passionate and enthusiastic about Retail & Visual Merchandising. So much so that someone recently said to me “It will be difficult to find someone more dedicated to the industry than you. You are the Alex Pollizzi (Hotel Inspector) of retail”. I think they may be right

Indeed, I am an avid fan of taking photographs of anything to do with retail, whether it’s good or bad.

So, while we all stop and look at fantastic window displays and VM sites within a store, here is a selection of photographs that show the other side of retail. These images give Retail and Visual Merchandising a bad reputation and it saddens me when I see these sights. Anything from cardboard signs to inappropriately dressed mannequins to boxes of stock and rubbish left on the shop floor!

First impressions are paramount, and customers should not be subjected to seeing these sights. With scenes like this, retailers wonder why business is bad and customers are not shopping in their stores!

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