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24 May 2018

Christmas Magic Made to Last

Christmas Installs should be top of retailers’ agendas; Here’s why:

Christmas. A pinnacle in purchasing power. Last year, Britain’s retailers collectively took over £50bn during the Festive period. Yet this is a season of soaring competition.  The fight to secure consumer-loyalty intensifies and the pressure to cement a place on shoppers’ ‘must-go’ check-lists heightens.

So how to become a much-loved festive destination, year-upon-year?

A memory-making Christmas installation.

Placemaking logic follows that spaces become sought-after destinations when people not only use them but want to use them. How? By strategically investing in inspiring facilities. So why should this rationale work any differently during Jolly Season?

Truth is, these placemaking principles are most true at Christmas. Bored of seeing tired-looking Christmas novelties, shoppers crave fresh inspiration. It’s why we’ve helped our clients invest in Christmas the right way. Collaborating with everyone from the Trafford Centre to Centre MK to British Land, we’ve delivered installations that sit in shoppers’ minds and build a festive legacy for years to come.

Augmented reality and Christmas may not be a traditional mix. Yet doing Christmas differently is the sure-fire way to stay top of shopper’s festive agenda. At Manchester’s Trafford Centre, a virtual life awaited little ones. Our grotto-with-a-twist attracted around 16,000 children who travelled from across the region to enter Santa’s parallel world. Following story-time with elves, children enjoyed a 20ft screen, displaying an Arctic augmented reality. Digital scenes showed polar bears, seals, fish and Eskimos. Finally, the fantastical became reality and children met a real-life Santa.

Where is the least-expected place to see Santa? Perhaps an iconic Routemaster bus? Collaborating with British Land, we produced, delivered and staffed a travelling double-decker, enabling 2346 children to experience Santa’s magic, across 7 UK sites. All the family were invited to board the bus, create a postcard to Santa with glitter, stickers and of course the all-important wish-list. Sourcing seasonal food and drink vendors, guests tucked into delicious treats whilst waiting upon their experience. Upstairs, we transformed the bus into Santa’s grotto; an enchanting ending to the festive journey.

A hands-on experience of Santa’s world creates vital ties between families and retailers. So, inviting little-ones to make friends with his elves in a very special workshop at Centre MK, kids had the opportunity to make their own reindeer food. 17,000 children journeyed to our bespoke grotto installation for the chance to live the life of an elf and finally meet Santa himself.

The best thing about our installations? Families look forward to experiencing their special memories all over again in following years and clients have a lasting festive investment. Now that’s the way to make festive magic!

24 May 2018

Together we Enjoy

Shifting family models mean everyone now enjoys the fun.

School Holidays. A precious moment for families and one of the busiest times in the retail calendar.

Endless days-to-fill mean the pressure is on retailers to keep little-ones entertained and parents stress-free. Yet a new-wave of thinking has arrived.

Let’s have a look at the full story. Once upon-a-time, retail centers were a trusted beacon for kid’s holiday entertainment. Harassed parents could stock up on new wardrobe staples for trips away, safe in the knowledge that their kids were kept-busy with child-friendly activities.

Today dynamics have changed. Longer working-hours mean family-time is rare. More-and-more consumers choose to shop-online. Families don’t want time off to be spent in silo.

Which is where retailers can help. By paving the way for the whole family to connect, brands build legacies. They’re known as the go-to place for families to enjoy meaningful moments. Whole-family activations mean shopping centers become central hubs. People choose to spend time in them, not by necessity but to make those vital bonds.

The ideal way to include everyone? Tech-driven family games. At Xcite we’ve harnessed the power of digital to conceive activities designed for all. Customising our bespoke-app with retail centers’ own branding or integrating the center’s own app, we deliver treasure-hunt games with a virtual twist.

Visitors work together to solve clues and puzzles on a smart-phone based treasure-hunt around the center. Stopping off at our activity hubs and finding treasures in retail spots, everyone has the opportunity to be involved. Consumers discover shopping finds they previously may never have found. Parents watch little-ones bonding. And ultimately retail-centers are placed top of the agenda as the go-to place to experience holiday fun.

To take a look at how we can help your brand or center becomes top of families’ agendas, why not contact our team?

24 May 2018

First Sight of Summer

Catching a look at the catwalk for new-season styles.

Summer is showing its first hints. Yet a long-lasting Winter means consumers search for escape. This Spring/Summer, they need look no further than our bright catwalks.

Connecting consumers to the looks they’re soon-to-love is vital for securing loyalty as they hunt for new wardrobe staples. So how better to stay on their style-radar than with live, entertaining catwalk shows?

This season we designed, installed, produced and styled runway shows across the country.

Our long-standing collaboration with Canary Wharf sees us produce over 20 shows over a 3-day period, four times a year. This Spring we created a Millennial dream. Our bespoke stage design came complete with hints of Millennial pink and florals accenting the sides. Sending 12 models down the catwalk, our vivid audio-visuals brought the show alive. Our talented stylist JP was on-hand to curate the chicest looks from across the participating retailers. The winning trends? Bold block colours, mismatched florals and of course, shades of Millennial Pink!

At the Centre MK, our custom-designed stage is built as a cross, mirroring the centre’s own shape. Installing the set, our carefully placed lighting and sound systems allow visitors to walk around the stage for a 360-degree experience. Over 2 days we produce every element of our 11 catwalk shows, liaising with retailers to inspire shoppers. JP compered the show, enlightening audiences on fashion tips to stay-ahead. This Spring/Summer a panel discussion with local bloggers and influencers left consumers brimming with style-tips.

Our Love Fashion weekend at Basingstoke’s Festival Place, ignited 2 days of stylish fun. A rainbow-hued flower wall complimented stylist JP’s floral-chic runway looks. 6 models danced to a backdrop screen displaying the relevant brand names. Perfect for consumers wanting to source their favourite finds.

A fashion-forward installation greeted shoppers at Lakeside. Inspired by styles that spread between girl-group friends, our ‘Squad Goals’ display included tiers of mirrored staging.  Female mannequins stood as a bright collective in the best block patterns of Spring/Summer.

Seasonal changes call consumers to keep ahead of the trends. A catwalk-weekend of inspirational shows is an ideal way to increase footfall, elevate brand-affinity, increase coverage on social media and make those long-lasting consumer ties.

12 March 2018

Easter with an Alternative Twist

Think Easter and think bright yellow chicks announcing Spring’s arrival, fluffy rabbits overflowing with pastel-coloured eggs, and endless chocolate chow-downs?

Think again. This Easter, why not do things a little differently? Bored of seeing the same-old colour-ways, themes and activities year-upon-year, shoppers crave unexpected experiences that deviate from the norm. We’ve rounded up our top three alternative themes for a truly memory-making Easter:

Dragon-Quest

Pretty patterned eggs aren’t only laid by Spring-time chickens. This year, valiant adventurers can forgo the usual Easter narrative and enter into a fairytale universe. Here, dragons rule the roost as visitors of all ages set off on a quest to hunt for legendary dragon eggs.

Why not enable guests to don a pair of metallic wings and have their faces painted in glittering-dragon designs? After transforming into mythical creatures, little ones and adults embark on their mythological voyage, cracking clues and meeting fantastical characters along the way. Guests’ adventurous spirits are finally rewarded with a chocolate surprise, hidden inside their treasured glistening egg.

Further delight is found in  decorating dragon-eggs at a glitter and jewell-filled embellishment station. Similarly live entertainers provide some much needed time-out from carrying Easter purchases, as they tell fabled stories of dragons-past. Dragon-Quest is certainly an ideal way to see your Easter activations garner legendary status!

Easter Down Under

What happens at Easter on the other side of the Earth? Why not let shoppers escape to the Southern Hemisphere this Spring and discover the answers as they enjoy Easter in Oz?

With Spring already showing glimpses of sun, its time to let the glow-factor go full-blast with an Easter weekend of fun, sun and kangaroos. Follow Skippy and his friends in a special Outback trail past bespoke installations, discovering brightly coloured eggs hidden inside retailers and around the centre. Those with keen eyes are hand-delivered chocolatey prizes straight from the pouches of some very friendly kangaroos.

Easter-bonnet making gets an Australian twist as children decorate hats with embellishments including mini kangaroos and felt Aussie creatures. Intrepid Outback explorers enjoy further fun through face-painting, Easter kangaroo tales from story-time entertainers and egg-decorating workshops where little ones can craft take-home kangaroo-faced eggs. 

Futuristic Easter

As robots evolve at lightning speed, everyone wants a glimpse of what the future may bring. This Easter its time to partner with new robot friends and take a look at the Easter of the future. Time-travel around the centre and discover a new-world where silver and marbled eggs contain QR codes ready to reveal chocolatey prizes after they’ve been digitally scanned.

Audio and visual projections guide shoppers in a series of interactive displays showing the Easter Bunny’s digital counterpart, BunnyBot. Shoppers can see and hear BunnyBot animated in neon-hued projections, helping them with clues to take them to the next stage of their futuristic adventure.

Little ones can join craft workshops learning to paint and decorate their own mini-robot eggs to take home. More futuristic fun is found through live robot entertainers handing out chocolate alien-eggs brought back from far-away lands. Craft-lovers can join bespoke bonnet decorating workshops, adorning themselves with metallic, glittering robot-themed headwear. This is truly the ideal way to skyrocket an unforgettable experience of the Easter of tomorrow.

12 March 2018

How Retailers can Re-Energise Easter

Easter is retail marketing’s ultimate sugar-rush. In 2017, the Easter break saw the sugar-rush spike as clothing, shoes, homeware and food sales were at their highest in over a year. Last April,  Britain’s consumers were out in force, helping to push the pound to its most powerful peak in eight months. Spring is seemingly the perfect time to boost footfall and uplift sales.

What’s more, retailers shouldn’t limit their efforts to just children. Whatever their age, consumers crave experiences that say something unique to them. As the Wellness Market explodes, its clear that shoppers connect with retailers that mirror their health and happiness goals.  We’ve rounded up our top activations to put a spring in shoppers steps. No Easter Bunny required!

Easter Egg Bliss-Ball workshops:

Sweet-treat season never loses its appeal. Yet sticky-chocolate faces are child’s play. Google Trends shows that people hunting for vegan Easter Eggs has near-tripled since 2015. Whilst consumers clearly desire healthier options, few retailers centre Easter activations around foodie alternatives. So this Spring it’s time to stay ahead of the competition. Why not delight customers with an Easter-themed vegan bliss-ball workshop?

These superfood energy-balls can be easily made by shoppers. With workshops lead by our specialist makes-and-bakes team, everyone gets a take-home treat and memories that last way beyond Easter. 

Mixing up ingredients including raw cacao, cashews, almonds, coconut, dates and goji berries, these bliss-ball Easter ‘eggs’ are sure to treat everyone to the season’s positive energy.

Easter Terrarium Making:

Spring brings a fresh-feeling of the great-outdoors. No longer needing to cosy-up by the fire, lighter days and newly-grown florals incentivise consumers to become in touch with nature. In full ‘spring-clean’ mode, shoppers want to bring botanicals inside, refreshing and reviving their environments. As they hit retail centres in search of homeware inspiration, what better way to create stand-out experiences than with a bespoke terrarium-making workshop?

This fun and surprisingly easy activity, requires just a few basic materials. As shoppers learn how to create their own miniature worlds, this unique workshop is a simple way to grow consumers’  excitement for the fresh-season. With huge flexibility, the workshop can range from creating full-scale centrepieces to mini-egg keepsakes.

Easter Meditation and Yoga:

The season’s blue skies and glimpses of sun see consumers wanting to refresh body and mind in time for Summer. The Easter break enables shoppers time to relax and unwind as they seek to freshen up their lifestyles.

Working in partnership with top yoga and meditation instructors, bespoke classes are a perfect way to mirror consumer-needs. The offer of complimentary sessions is a sure-fire way to magnetise shoppers into centres whilst heightening dwell-time. What’s more, these custom-created workshops are an ideal way to flag Spring-season sportswear and athleisure collections. These inclusive sessions work around consumers so that everyone from first-timers to accomplished yoga bunnies will enjoy positive Easter vibes. 

12 March 2018

Playing Consumer Claire Voyant: The Future of Retail

Imagine the future. What image springs to mind? A combination of Hollywood invention and utopian Sci-Fi leads us to far-away worlds where floating cars, robotic friends and ethereal travel are all par for the course. Yet look around you. This seemingly fictitious world with its accelerated pace, clean lines and seamless design elements, is suddenly looking not so far-away.

Okay, so we may not own floating cars, don’t regard robots as our closest friends and time-travel remains rooted in Hollywood fiction. Yet as technology advances, there’s one major trend threading together consumer behaviour: MINIMALISM.

Whilst arguably the post-internet age brings complexity, it equally offers an ability to reduce the clutter we carry. All our contacts, our knowledge, our notes, our payment cards, our entertainment, our memories and our comforts are integrated into something the size of our palms. No longer do we lug around bags filled with a messy abundance of possessions. We’re good to go whenever. Wherever. We’re set to experience the world, unencumbered by ‘stuff’.

A recent report produced by research consultancy Kantar highlights how consumerism is changing fundamentally. Characterised as a ‘Live Large-Carry Little’ ethos, the report underlines that consumers favour rich, meaningful experiences, free from excessive material goods.

So, what does this mean for the Retail Industry? Is this preference for experiences above possessions, an obvious kick in the teeth?

In short, no. Far from it. Brands, retailers and shopping centres are actually in the prime position to predict, innovate and lead consumer’s ‘Live-Large’ ethos.

Twenty years ago, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore penned the now legendary book ‘The Experience Economy’. In it, they predicted a brave new world where businesses would conceive a sphere of experiential touchpoints in order to resonate and be valued by consumers.

Today, this observation is an absolute imperative. The most innovatory and astute brands and retailers have refocused their businesses proposition. No longer are they just institutions offering products and services, they are the makers of cultural experiences. They capture the zeitgeist and design everything they do with an experiential dimension. Brands with longevity know that they need to have presentism in all aspects of consumer’s daily experiences. Through retail environments, pop-up activations, immersive platforms and in-store communications, they realise brand worlds, not just brand guidelines.

At Xcite, our founding impulse is to help retailers produce immersive worlds that really mean something to consumers. In a ‘Live Large-Carry Little’ era, we’ve never been prouder of this impulse than today.