As the famous song riffs, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but in the retail sector the festive season has been in full swing for months.
But the sparkly lure of tinsel and baubles is an annual bugbear for shoppers who complain shopping malls transition from ghoulish Halloween decor to cheery Christmas chic before you can say ‘Kris Kringle’.
So, is the special day actually creeping up on us earlier or have we just become a bunch of Christmas grinches?
According to Andrew Purves, director of Centre Punch which specialises in installing commercial decorations in Victorian and Canberra, shopping centres have no time for a Halloween hangover.
There’s other logistics to consider: only a handful of companies handle large shopping centre installations so there has to be an early start so they can get through all centres in timely fashion.
“They normally like us to install after October 31, and they’d like it installed within the first seven days of November,” Mr Purves said.
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How do installations come to life?
The company enlists dozens of workers to service Westfield centres across Woden, Belconnen, Southland, Geelong and Airport West.
Each job takes between two to three days to complete, and like Santa’s elves, teams of up to 100 work through the night once doors are closed.
“Most people have a life, so we get crew that can work until midnight, 2am. If we’re working till after 4am, it’s a bad night,” Mr Purves said.
“Most decorations shopping centres purchase now are ready-made items – we take them out of the box, dust them off, ensure they’re in good working order and install them one by one.”
Poor retail showings prompt early Christmas cheer
Recently-released Roy Morgan research forecasts retail spending to exceed $52.7 billion across the Christmas trading period, representing a growth of 2.6 per cent – down from 2.8 per cent the previous year.
Retail Doctor Group chair David Kindl says traders battling not only Australia’s stagnant economy but the encroaching reach of online shopping have been compelled to push their strategies forward.
And shopping centres are echoing this sentiment.
“It’s the old adage, the early bird catches the worm,” Mr Kindl said.
“What we see in a market with low wage growth, consumers have a limited amount of money to spend, so the retailers who get access early, they’re the ones who are successful.”
With bricks and mortar stores still accounting for roughly 90 per cent of all retail sales, Mr Kindl says they have an advantage by hyping up festive spirits with in-store carols and the aforementioned Christmas presentations.
“It’s where people interact. It’s a human experience, and the celebration is a wonderful thing,” Mr Kindl said.
“And we’re seeing a lot more retailers reaching out through social media, and email marketing. So once the customer comes into the shop, then they’re given this wonderful experience in store.”
So what makes for good festive decor?
Previously tasked with constructing a 15-metre Christmas tree in Belconnen over three nights, Centre Punch decked out trained workers in rock-climbing gear to complete the upper tiers.
Major shopping centres field pitches from decoration companies who travel to trade shows as far as Germany, with any purchases expected to last between five to seven years, Mr Purves said.
With so much riding on the line, what’s the hot tip for perfecting the festive shopping experience? In his words, simple elegance.
“The truth is there’s only so much you can decorate,” Mr Purves said.
“You can go over the top, but shopping centres have to make sure the traders are happy, so there would only be so far you could go before they become overwhelmed.”
Don’t tell that to the Galeries Lafayette shopping mall in Paris.