Trends and Insights Interview – Birmingham
As part of our Roller Trends and Insights 2017 project, we’re releasing a series of behind the scenes information and exclusive interviews as part of our build up to publication. Our Trends and Insights project has taken us to seven different cities, over the course of 8 weeks, sourcing and analysing festive retail trends across the globe. From New York to Nottingham, and Berlin to Birmingham, we’ve taken in in store experiences, explored grand beautiful shopping centres, monitored virtual Christmas campaigns and carefully studied the future retail predictions for 2018.
As Birmingham was one of the very first cities we visited as part of Trends and Insights, we’ve spoken to our Digital Designer Gloria Lai for a first hand re-telling of the 2017 Christmas Retail Trends.
So why did we choose Birmingham in particular for Trends and Insights research?
The main reason why we selected Birmingham as one of our Seven Cities of Trends and Insights that the city sits at the heart of the midlands and is second biggest city in the UK after London, meaning the retail opportunity is absolutely immense. The Bullring shopping centre and Grand Central station is only a stone’s throw from the recently renovated train station, giving immediate access for shoppers to over 200 retail stores and restaurants. It really is a shopaholic’s dream with the high street and luxury designer retail centre Mailbox surrounding the Bullring and Grand Central as well. With our Trends and Insights research requiring a dedicated amount of instore retail experiences, Birmingham was instantly an ideal spot for investigation.
Whilst selecting cities to visit, we also factored in that Birmingham, London and Manchester were the homes of Selfridges’ flagship stores, and also Selfridges was already proving to be a standout in terms of festive campaigns, it was crucial to check it out.
How many shops did you see during your visit?
Throughout the day we were in Birmingham, we visited almost 100 shops, in a variety of sectors ranging from fashion and beauty to technology and digital. As the day went on, we focused on our search on stores that had heavily stood out to us with their Christmas campaigns this year. From studying these stores online, viewing social and digital campaigns, we were able to determine which retail experiences in particular were worth researching further, such as the Body Shop, Oasis and Harvey Nichols.
Which shops in particular stood out to you from this city?
For me, the Body Shop in particular stood out as I loved how they incorporated both charity and fun in their Christmas marketing campaign this year. With advent calendar boxes and cute puzzles in store, their charity this year was ‘International Alert’, with the slogan as ‘Play for Peace’. Their choice of charity this year contrasts their previous chosen charity of ‘Save the Rainforest’ with Reggie the monkey as their mascot. For Body Shop, this year’s focus was on children displaced as refugees predominantly due to the terror and unrest in Syria. To combat the war and unsettlement of 2017, Body Shop chose to bring out the most vivid colours of the colour spectrum in swirling psychedelic patterns, reminiscing the peace and love the 1960s tried to bring to the world. Replacing Reggie the monkey, a colourful vintage toy robot plasters the store front windows as the protagonist of bringing the world peace and love it surely craves in a time of uncertainty.
Supporting their colourful campaign, Body Shop collaborated with the House of Holland, tasking them to create their advent calendars and gift sets that Body Shop is pushing this year. Each gift set has been designed to have a secondary purpose besides holding perfumed body scrubs and delicious lip balms. Emphasising their ‘Play for Peace’ campaign, each gift set will also host some form of game and interaction.
For example, one gift box I unboxed had a maze printed onto the back of the lid, inviting recipients of the gift to ‘play for peace’. Another gift, a star shaped box filled with an assortment of fruity flavoured lip balms had a spinner on the transparent lid. Once you take all the products out of the packaging, there are different tasks and activities you can ‘spin’ to, landing on one of the sections, the game will ask you to do a task generally for the greater such as “walk your neighbours’ dog this Christmas”.
Did you pick up on any initial trends from the shop windows before you went in store?
When we first arrived in Birmingham, it was a little overwhelming facing so many shops with so many different festive campaigns. But from simply walking around Grand Central, we were able to pick up on some continuous themes of British nostalgia, strong diversity and royal celebrations, particularly in shops such as Oasis, Selfridges and Ted Baker. Interestingly, however, as we visited Birmingham at the end of November, we found that many stores were reluctant to begin their Christmas campaigns until after the Black Friday season. This marked a strong difference to previous years, where festive marketing has typically begun in early November – potentially signalling a change in the way that retail approaches Christmas.
Were there any colour themes or patterns that caught your eye?
Following from the Royalty trend and theme, the ruby red, royal blue and regal purple was seen repeatedly through different retail stores that we had visited. Jo Malone introduced an interesting Christmas campaign by incorporating a lot of clashing colours and rigorous patterns like stripes and polka dots. After speaking to a staff member, it was clear they were also pleasantly surprised and happy that the brand is moving on with the times.
Selfridges introduced and set the ruby red and royal blue throughout the Birmingham store with beautiful parade flags whilst Debenhams introduced the fairytale purple within the shop front window and within the store.
How do you think the retail trends you picked up on this Christmas will be reflected in 2018?
A very prominent and predicted trend for 2018 was gender neutrality. It was very much anticipated and it is slowly but surely showing through retail stores in a very subtle manner. For example a sign was addressed in Topshop advertising the personal tailoring service they provide. The interesting part to this was it was in the mens section but the sign was accompanied with a woman dressed in fashionably smart suit.
What do you think we can expect from Christmas Trends and Insights 2018?
If I am fortunate to be back again next Christmas, I would fully expect the royal colours to stay especially with the upcoming royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle next year. I hope more retail brands will become more brave at confronting and normalising inclusivity of topics that are prone to be swept under the carpet. I know this is already happening, Maybelline introduced their first male model representative earlier this year alongside John Lewis’ release of gender neutral childrenswear.