Christmas at Harrods: Q&A with Deborah Bee, Director of Creative Marketing

Most of us have happy memories of visits to a department store at Christmas time growing up, to meet Father Christmas.

Retail Connections steps behind the curtain to find out how one of the world’s most iconic stores – Harrods – brings the magic of the festive season to life, in this exclusive Q&A with Harrods’ Director of Creative Marketing, Deborah Bee.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Christmas at Harrods is always a fun project. So many people have happy memories of coming to see Father Christmas at Harrods as a child, so our task is simple – we try to create an atmosphere and experience that children will never forget.

We start with a theme then work out whether it will translate across all our communications – from the store windows to the grotto, Harrods magazine to emails. While we want to appeal to children, the visuals need to be sophisticated enough to also appeal to adults – so the style is really important. It’s hard to say where inspiration comes from – it can be from a book or a film or an opera or a cake. I am addicted to pinterest – it’s a great place to search and save things.

You’ve brought back hero mouse Peter Pumpernickel in this year’s campaign – what was the customer reaction like last year, to prompt his return appearance?  

Last year everyone wanted to buy a Peter, so we decided to bring him back throughout the Christmas theme. He’s got a nice new jacket in a harlequin pattern in pink, orange, red and gold – and the entire store matches him. We’ve also created lots of Peter product including snow globes, soft toys, Russian dolls etc. There are even Peter and Poppy biscuits.

Your Christmas campaign has to work across multiple channels, to drive both online sales and store footfall. How do you do this in a way that works harmoniously across all channels, but which takes into account that online shoppers may be a different audience, with different motivations, than store visitors?

The creative team create all the assets which are then shared across the business. Each area of the business has different needs and different customers or potential visitors so the creative needs to work on many levels. The style of the creative needs to be carefully considered at the outset.  I think that starting Christmas as early as possible really helps.

Your Christmas window display: what’s the secret to creating the wow factor?

The visual merchandising team are so hard-working. They love Christmas – it’s their favourite window scheme of the year.

Christmas ads are an ever-growing phenomenon. Has Harrods had to change your approach in recent years to rival the big budget offerings of Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and the like? Or are you happy to tread your own path, given your product offering is very different?

It’s nice to do a Christmas film – it’s become a bit of a tradition. I think our film reflects a desire to bring a little magic to the festive season. A trip to Harrods, especially at Christmas, is unforgettable.

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