The Magic of Christmas Should Be Just the Beginning

10/12/2014 17:50 GMT | Updated 09/02/2015 10:59 GMT

If the only effort you make with those you love were once a year, you'd likely be left alone at Christmas. So why do brands and retailers show the love disproportionately at Christmas and then revert to the same-old, same-old throughout the rest of the year?

The simple response is because they are a business and naturally follow the money, and Christmas is a time when shoppers are spending, more so than at any other time of the year. But this strategy, one that's all too common, points at a serious problem.

Right now in the UK, retailers are in the middle of their annual advertising war. This tradition involves trying to top one another through 60+ second TV ads designed to make you to cry. But strangely, I'd even say stupidly, if you're so moved by these ads to actually leave your sofa and go to the store, all you'll find is crowds, a bit of tinsel, steep discounts, and the same old store you likely opted out of the rest of the year. What moved you to tears, exactly? Perhaps this is why the growth of online shopping climbs on its relentless ascent.

I recently hosted a panel discussion with a group of retail executives from Disney, Selfridges, Google, and Intel, among others. A key point they made was the crucial need for clarity of meaningful shopper purpose if retailers are to succeed in today's market. This purpose recognizes that the limited wallet we all chase for our success has a myriad of choices for what to buy, where, and at what price. Being a retailer that's only about providing stuff just isn't enough.

While there is greater pressure to spend at this time of year, the fact is people love discovery and the seduction of new things at any time. There's no seasonality to desire. And this offers retail's great opportunity: the ability to tap into an always-on emotional state to entice people to come into the store and then keep coming back.

A perfect example of a retailer that does this exceptionally well, a personal favourite of mine, is Selfridges. They make it their business to constantly innovate; to make their store a destination not just a shop all year long. They see their store as a theatre of dreams, requiring constant care and attention to capture peoples' imaginations. For Selfridges, Christmas is just an excuse to add another level of experience to customers. This strategy has made shopping at Selfridges an incredibly special experience and in return they are rewarded with an abundance of new shoppers added to their loyal customers who have a deep emotional engagement to Selfridges' unique brand of retail. The in-store experience is so powerful that shopping online at Selfridges.com defeats their true purpose and value.

Which brings me back to Christmas. The mythical magic of this holiday showcases stores at their best. It is our retail stores that create the stage sets for creative, sentimental, joyous, dreamy holiday memories. Who can forget the childhood memory of sitting on Santa's lap? And it isn't just about the stuff, it's about the power of creating a meaningful experience.

My challenge is: why isn't it Christmas year-round? Shoppers expect it. And in the competitive environment in which we now operate, we are being asked to create something special all year long. Boxing Day shouldn't be seen as the end of a magical year, but rather the beginning.