Cultural Holidays: Why retailers should look further afield

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Easter is fast approaching and retailers’ shelves are filling up with chocolate eggs, stuffed bunny rabbits and promotions for Easter Sunday roast dinners.

A near identical process is seen at Christmas as retailers in all sectors gear their promotions and merchandise towards the big day.

These cultural holidays are key dates for the retail sector, so much so that new dates like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are invented to give retailers a marketing hook to attempt to replicate the sales boosts they see.

With multiculturalism, more prominent than ever in the UK, why are traditional Christian holidays, along with American imports like Halloween still so prominent, while major events from other cultures are ignored?

“A fundamental reason is scale,” Fung Global’s lead UK analyst John Mercer told Retail Gazette.

“There have been enough shoppers to buy into Christian festivals for mass-market chain retailers to promote sales for these events across their store networks.


READ MORE: Could Chinese New Year be the biggest retail opportunity of the last year?


“One calendar event – though it is not a cultural holiday – that has grown substantially is Halloween, and retailers have been making greater efforts to generate spend.

“We think this is indicative of bricks-and-mortar retailers seeking to make more of seasonal events to drive footfall and impulse purchases.”

However, Gregor Jackson, the founding partner of retail design agency gpstudio, believes alternative calendar events are now playing as big a role in retailers’ years than traditional ones.

“For the consumer, shopping over the Easter and Christmas periods is linked to holidays,” he said.

“But while retail has always been seasonal, the layering over of very many international holidays – religious or otherwise or globally-celebrated events, is now already playing a vital commercial role of at least equal, if not greater, importance.

“The likes of Ramadan, Eid, Chinese New Year, Black Friday, Thanksgiving and National Singles Day are just a few examples – the latter with staggering reported consumer spending of $17.8 billion (£14.31 billion) in 24 hours.

“It would certainly be wise for retailers not to have too narrow a focus when it comes to these cultural events – but in a manner that doesn’t result in products simply rotating in a never-ending supply chain cycle, so focused to their brand and consumer.”

“In 2015, the latest full year for which we have UK data, some 325,000 Chinese travelers visited the UK; this compared to 2.2 million visiting France and 2.3 million visiting the US.”

Chinese Golden Week and more recently Chinese New Year are two of the few calendar events that have seen huge success in the UK retail industry, despite the UK being fairly low on the list in terms of Chinese visitors.

But with the devaluation of the pound, Chinese tourism has been a continually increasing source of revenue for retailers as travelers have suddenly found their cash goes much further.

The link between Chinese tourist spend and retailers’ focus on their events is clear, but what is more difficult to determine is the direction of the correlation.

Jackson believes the more retailers focus on the tourist, the more tourists will spend.

“The likes of Harrods would say that there is a correlation between tourists and retailers focus – they take £1 in ever

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