The Queen’s diamond jubilee was a reason for mass celebration across the country with millions watching the river pageant, concert and the procession over an extended bank holiday weekend. What’s more, according to a report by ecommerce services provider Venda, retailers were in jubilant mood for other reasons too.
Over the long weekend in June, Venda saw a 38 percent increase in online transactions across its customer base, which includes retailers such as Heal’s, Emma Bridgewater and Accessorize, with a 34 percent increase in sales values. It also noted that brands strongly associated with “Britishness” saw sales values increase to six times the amount spent during the royal wedding weekend last year. What this demonstrates, says Venda, is that brands seized the opportunity to capitalise on their Britishness to make the most of this key retail period.
Looking ahead, it concluded that those retailers that have an event-led retail strategy in place will be best placed to maximise their sales opportunities in the months to come—namely during this year’s London 2012 Olympic Games.
Stella Hartley, an independent multichannel marketing consultant, explains, “An event-led strategy means that the retailer can create relevant content whether offline or online that resonates with customers at specific times. In the next few months we are all going to be involved with the Olympics in one way or another and like the diamond jubilee there will be opportunities to celebrate Britishness as well as sport”.
One retailer proudly celebrating its British roots is Crew Clothing, a company founded in Devon with strong ties to the sailing community. For the jubilee it ran a “fly the flag” promotion, applying discounts to clothing emblazoned with the Union Jack and promoted its heritage range with special offers. For the Olympics, brand marketing director Sarah Baskcomb says the company is sponsoring athletes, including rower Louisa Reeve and the Paralympic GB boccia squad. In addition, window displays scheduled for early July will be decorated with medals and flags to show support for the British team and celebrate the “great things happening in Great Britain,” she says. Crew Clothing also has a pop-up store in the Olympic Village in Weymouth, where the sailing events are held.
A sporting chance
Among the memorable displays from the jubilee, Hartley notes, “Ted Baker did a great job with corgis wearing union jack waistcoats and ginger beer served in stores, Cath Kidston looked good too with strong window displays, Selfridges had fantastic windows, managing to be both patriotic and ironic. John Lewis looked good with a real product focus, White Stuff created jubilee events in stores with a variety of activities, River Island cleverly created a nod to the jubilee with a punk garden party theme, again with corgis.”
But for the Olympics, what of retailers that don’t have an obvious link to sport? Stella Hartley says brands with no sporting connections “can still create celebratory British events and put their best foot forward with windows and homepages”.
Nursery and maternity retailer JoJo Maman Bebe, for example, created store displays to celebrate the jubilee and the Olympics. But the timing has been “tricky” as the Olympics span the company’s summer season, sale and new autumn collection launch, says managing director Laura Tenison. “We managed to find a way of promoting all of them simultaneously, but it required some imagination”.
For Traidcraft, a charity trading arm, the focus has been on the community and the sorts of events its network of direct sellers will be organising. “The Olympics will connect communities across the UK and Traidcraft is encouraging its sellers to use fair trade when organising their local and community-based events,” says Jane Riley, business development director. This includes, for example, offers on barbecue products, refreshments for sports quizzes and party-food ingredients.
Riley is hopeful that the “feel-good factor” around the games will have a positive effect on retailers. But, as the jubilee celebrations coincided with schools’ half-term week and Crew’s sale, Baskcomb says it’s been difficult to gauge just how much of the sales uplift during the period could be attributed to the company’s event-led promotions to date.
Online gifts retailer Prezzybox has no plans to jump on the bandwagon, so founder Zak Edwards says the business will focus its efforts on more targeted promotions specifically aimed at its demographic segments, “as opposed to running a ‘must-have Olympics deals’ like 99 percent of lazy marketers will be doing”. He warns, “Gone are the days when retailers of all shapes and sizes can just jump on the latest event to promote their brand. Not only are consumers much more marketing savvy nowadays, but they are now literally bombarded with promotions—from newsletters, through to adverts on Facebook.”
“The Centre for Retail Research predicts a 3.7 percent (£3 billion) increase in sales between June and August because of the effect of the jubilee and the Olympics, with 27 percent of this coming from online,” says Hartley. And, while “there will undoubtedly be some transport issues in London that could affect retailers, online retailers will benefit, particularly as many London office workers will be encouraged to work from home.”
However, some reports suggest that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will cause widespread disruption to home shopping as well as to retail in general. It won’t be just London-based businesses that will have to make contingency plans either: London deliveries represent nearly a fifth of all deliveries in the UK, meaning it’s likely that even if the retailer is not London-based, a significant number of its customers will be.
But so far, retailers aren’t fazed, nor do they believe sales will go through the roof. Kevin Hague, managing director of Scotland-based Greenfingers.com and PetPlanet’s parent company M8 Group, says this year’s summer of sport won’t affect demand for gardening or pet products, so won’t have a noticeable impact on his business. Likewise, JoJo Maman Bebe’s Tenison adds that “if people are indoors watching the TV they are not buying, full stop”. Zak Edwards of Prezzybox adds “if we were a souvenir shop selling Olympic mascots then maybe we’d see a rise in sales, but otherwise I think it will remain pretty static”. Then there’s the effect of the weather, “if the sun happens to shine, then people in the UK look to take full advantage of it and head outdoors. Consequently, sales numbers tend to deplete a little,” says Edwards.
That said, for Crew Clothing’s Sarah Baskcomb, the jubilee and Olympics are less about a sales uplift and more about morale boosting. “It’s about British companies showing support for Great Britain and giving consumers the opportunity to forget the gloom and celebrate what they belong to,” adding that retailers need to “box clever” to really make the most of the opportunity presented by the nation’s celebratory mood.
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