How independent retailers are gearing up for Christmas with in-store festivities

17 November 2022, 13:28 PM
  • With the Christmas countdown officially on, it’s more important than ever for indies to put on a show with their shop windows, in-store space and events
How independent retailers are gearing up for Christmas with in-store festivities

For fine food retailers, display is always important, but even more so at Christmas. We explore how indies can make their store really sparkle and become a community hub of festivities this winter. 

Festive window displays
For indie shops on the high street, a gorgeous festive window display could mean the difference between a shopper wandering in or walking past. 

As Stephen Fleming, owner of George & Joseph explained, “We always make a point of decorating our shop for Christmas – our front windows are a perfect spot for displaying our non-food Christmas gifts such as books, knives and other cheese accessories. 

Daniel Williams, project manager at Godfrey C Williams & Sons, takes a slightly different approach to festive window displays. “We usually create displays around the products themselves, with minimal decoration using tinsel or lights. The products should sell themselves, as some sing ‘festive’ by just having a presence on your display! Think stollen, panettone, and Christmas puddings.

“Creating a great festive window is a fine art, with preparation starting months in advance. My top tips would be to decide upon key items to feature and make the focus, use size to your advantage – large items can fill corners and create height, small items can plug gaps or provide detail.”

“Make the preparation and construction of your Christmas window an experience to look forward to, rather than a chore! Involve your staff and ask them for their ideas. Schedule an evening, with mince pies and mulled wine!”

Laura Roberts, owner of Laura’s Larder, agreed, “We like to go for natural decorations, we worked with a lovely local florist last year, SMW Blooms, who made us a wreath out of preserved ming fern. It was stunning. We took it out of the box this year and it still looks (and smells!) amazing! It’s back with the florist who’s helping us make it look even lovelier for this year, as well as a natural frame for the window. 

“We will then use the frame to surround chosen products as we like to let the products speak for themselves.

Decking the halls in-store
Getting customers to walk through the door is the easy part, the real challenge is enticing them to make a purchase using the persuasion of decoration. 

For Laura, “There has to be fairy lights, LED of course with electricity prices. We again have some from previous years which are on a copper wire and can be wrapped around every bar, frame and shelf in the shop, they give such good vibes during the winter nights. 

“I have an age-old theory that everything looks better with fairy lights or candles and I’ve never been proved wrong! Strategically placed dehydrated orange slices and cinnamon sticks around the store then add a really festive, but classy, feel.”

According to Stephen, it’s about showcasing local festive cheeses around the store. “We make a feature of our seasonal cheeses such as Vacherin and Gorgonzola Dolce, which we hand-spoon on the counter – it’s great theatre!

“Each Saturday we hold what we call ‘Sample Saturday’ where we showcase one or two cheeses for customers to sample. We invite local cheesemakers to come along and present their cheeses – this always goes down a storm with our customers and gives the cheesemakers direct feedback on their products”, he explained.

Events and festivities
Christmas is a great opportunity for indies to get involved with their communities and offer a personal touch that the multiples simply can’t. 

At George & Joseph, “Each year we’ve taken part in a local festive ‘advent calendar’ of shop windows, which creates interest in the local community. We also use posters and A-boards to tempt customers in and keep them up-to-date with events, Christmas pre-orders and other things”, according to Stephen.

Similarly, Daniel explained, “Our tasting calendar for this year centres around the return of our ‘Taste of Christmas’ Food Fair, with the last one held in 2019.  We usually plan this for the middle-end of November to allow for both Christmas purchasing and repeat sales. Close enough that customers will be thinking of Christmas, but allowing enough time if a spouse should raid the fridge and eat their Christmas cheese early!

“We’ve also planned a programme of wine tastings, centred around English wine, and great-value wines for Christmas.”

Laura also uses tastings to draw in festive customers. “We have been running Tasty Thursdays in the shop for a while, and in November they turned a bit festive with “Raclette and Red” which was a warm-up, followed by wine tasting – offering a discount on any purchased “Christmas trio” which is a fizz, white, and red which would make any Christmas lunch proud. 

“We are planning a “truffle your own Brie” session in the Christmas week for those who like to take credit for “doing everything from scratch” (guilty!) and it’s also a bit of fun, a glass of something, and a creation you can enjoy at home. 

“We extend our opening hours quite significantly in December and we often play alternative Christmas music (a note for your sanity: searching Spotify for ‘alternative Christmas’ or ‘Christmas soul’ can create a Mariah-free-playlist!), serve mulled wine, and have even been known to sell Christmas dinner on a stick. Watch this space for the Christmas special this year”, she concluded.

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