The run-up to Christmas in London begins in earnest this evening as the Oxford Street Christmas lights are switched on, hosted by retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S).
M&S Marble Arch will hold the event at 17:00 GMT this evening, and the 52nd annual event is expected to see thousands gather in the West End as girl group The Saturdays officially kick-start the festive shopping season in the capital by switching on the lights.
Jace Tyrrell of New West End Company, the organisation behind the event, commented: “London’s iconic Oxford Street lights will capture the imagination of the tens of millions of visitors over the Christmas period to the West End, including international shoppers coming from as far as China, Russia, Japan, Brazil and Thailand for a quintessentially British Christmas.
“With retailers all lit up for the festive season, the West End will attract visitors looking to start their Christmas shopping.”
Today’s lights ceremony comes as retailers are offering Christmas goods earlier and earlier, according to customer experience specialists SMG.
The company points out that major retailers including Selfridges and Harrods have opened their Christmas departments as much as five months ahead of December, and it warned that retailers need to work hard to help cash-conscious consumers spread the cost of the festive season.
Identifying ways in which retailers can turn first-time visitors into loyal customers beyond the festive period, SMG claims that product availability is crucial.
Reducing queuing times and ensuring that staff are cheerful during the period is imperative to overall customer satisfaction, the company adds, while store design and layout and use of social media have also been identified as key elements to improving the shopper experience.
Last month, M&S launched a new click & collect service for its foodhall items ahead of Christmas, claiming that the move will help to maintain its position as a primary destination for events food while improving its multichannel offerings.
As such, the high-street variety store is a strong choice to unveil the official start of the Christmas countdown in London.
“Turning on the Oxford Street Christmas Lights marks the start of the festive season, and M&S is really proud to be hosting this year’s celebrations,” said Steve Rowe, Director of Retail at M&S.
“We’re inviting Christmas shoppers far and wide to join us outside our Marble Arch store on November 1st for what is sure to be a spectacular experience.”