After the coming weekend, retailers will remove Hallowe’en stock from their shelves, return it to their warehouses and refocus attention on the retail calendar’s main holiday: Christmas. In light of this, we’ve looked back at last year’s visual merchandising tactics from 6 retailers to understand the very different ways they engaged their consumers.
Net-a-Porter sent out 19 email newsletters during December last year. Unlike many, the luxury retailer didn’t place an emphasis on reductions or promotions and didn’t announce their sale until the 26th Dec. The majority of messaging was placed on shopping for self, rather than gifting, with only one gift edit on the 2nd Dec, featuring accessories, jewellery and homewares. Net-a-Porter neatly appealed to their specific consumers’ lifestyle, compiling edits based around ski holidays and warm weather holiday destinations.
They also made the most of the luxury shopper’s investment ahead of season, touting Resort wares and new season trends. They added clout to their occasionwear selection, using celebrity red carpet imagery to endorse their own trends. On Christmas Day, Net-a-Porter sent out a nicely styled “Happy Holidays” email, which did not directly promote a sale or products, but was a classy and simple touch, as well as a clever reminder of their presence.
Mr Porter also deserves a mention for their December campaign in 2012, which steered clear of any sales alerts until 30th December. Instead, sending out 13 emails during the month, they focused on full-priced knits and winter clothing and created a bespoke feel with hand-drawn illustrations for the month.
2. Nasty Gal
Considering its discount-driven Gen-Y consumer, Nasty Gal do an excellent job of creating interesting and engaging visual merchandising, clearly allocating a decent budget to the task. They sent 18 email newsletters in December, none of which featured hackneyed or clichéd holiday season imagery or traditional red sales banners. They create an intriguing brand personality that makes the consumer feel like a friend. They were the only retailer we investigated who sent out a yearly round-up, detailing the growth in their HQ team, company achievements and the press they were most proud of. A nice touch to feel part of the Nasty Gal family!
Like Net-a-Porter, Nasty Gal’s messaging focused on buying for self, with New Year’s Eve outfit inspiration given high precedence. Aware that shopping for clothing online is best suited to the end-user, they promoted their gift cards heavily throughout the month – a great way for them to attract new shoppers, have a chance to up the spend and cut back on returns.
Kohl’s took a very different tack for their December communications, sending out a staggering 29 emails during the month, all of which were heavily discount-focussed. Their tactics relied upon the call to action of time-dependant sales, offering Bonus Buys for two days on specific items across toys, jewellery, clothing and homewares. Discounts offered were between 15 and 30%, with promos running both online and instore. Further adding to the panic sale messaging were banners stating “X shopping days until Christmas” on every email.
4. Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters sent 13 different email newsletters during December. Their messaging contained a mix of sale promotions (going into sale on the 12th December), new product arrivals, festive wear and bestsellers. They showed good understanding of their customer, knowing that many young workplaces now adopt the Secret Santa custom and compiled an edit for this. They also launched a Bad Santa campaign, linking to their blog from the newsletter and encouraging customers to tweet images of mischievous Santas using the hashtag #BadSanta to be in with a chance of winning prizes – a nice campaign that highlights their cheeky attitude.
ASOS sent out 14 womenswear and 14 menswear emails in December 2012. Their messaging ran the full breadth of consumer needs, with next day delivery offers promoted until the 24th, repeated discounts including a 20% off everything one day “smash and grab” and festive wear inspiration edits. Their “Best Night Ever” campaign ran during the month of December, featuring Ellie Goulding, Azealia Banks and Charlotte Free. It included shoppable and pinnable video, encouraging consumers to interact with the brand to describe their #bestnightever and won the media agency behind it, Carat, three global digital awards including campaign of the year.
ASOS also promoted their Gift List, a clever way of getting their young customers to build wish lists to share with their family and friends. A competition that ran alongside this offered a consumer the chance to win their entire wish lists. Gift lists are a great way of making sharing of baskets seamless and user-friendly.
6. Forever 21
Forever 21, who sent out 13 December emails in 2012, kept their visual merchandising away from the normal imagery associated with the season. In doing so, their communications felt a little lacklustre compared to the exciting campaigns of Urban Outfitters, ASOS and Nasty Gal. Ten of the emails were heavily sales focused, and traditional in their lack of styled imagery, large discount symbols and red and white slogans. Product barely seemed to return to full price following the start of their mid-season sale on the 15th November and they missed opportunities to pull together festive-wear or New Year’s Eve outfit inspirations. Interestingly though, for a mass market retailer not normally associated with Resort, they promoted their Resort Ready Exclusive collection on the 27th December. This plays into their newness-seeking consumers hands – many of whom will have tired of the near-continual sales.
Many retailers aren’t just evoking a seasonal feeling with their visual merchandising, but also through novelty product. In the last two weeks Christmas novelty jumpers have been arriving at New Look, Boohoo, ASOS, River Island and Topman. In fact, there are 631 women’s items currently retailing with the word “Christmas” in the title, 229 men’s and 282 children’s – suggesting that Father Christmas isn’t just for the kiddies!
Christmas novelty jumpers were a big success for River Island in 2012’s holiday period, with a £25 Polar bear jumper arriving in store on the 19th October and selling out by the 30th October and a £20 Christmas pudding Dolman top selling out in 9 days during November. They brought a similar Dolman top, featuring either a robin or a penguin into stock on the 29th October this year, with an elevated price of £30.
Those products also span price points, showing they’re not just throwaway funnies. Womenswear Christmas items that are currently on the market cover the breadth of £1.40 – £1,021, with the majority falling into jewellery, sweaters, onesies, underwear and socks. Charlotte Olympia’s festive-themed items sold at My Theresa and Net-a-Porter, are evidence that luxury can get in on this trend. Her ‘Jingle Bells’ pumps at £650 sold out of 7 of 10 sizes fully priced for My Theresa and the £595 Holly flats sold out in 3 sizes, full priced at Net-a-Porter.