Here’s what shopping centres across the country are doing for Christmas

A number of retailers are approaching the all-important Christmas trading period with a less than positive outlook, according to recent data released by Deloitte.

Deloitte’s annual Retailers Christmas Survey showed only 62 per cent of retailers expect to see higher sales this Christmas compared to the previous corresponding period, down from 80 per cent last year. Just under 40 per cent are expecting to see some form of Christmas period margin decrease.

But the challenging market conditions that have characterised 2019 have not deterred shopping centres across Australia and their tenants from rolling out more inclusive activities, shows, workshops and events.

Many centres have also tapped local community charities to get involved.

Westfield caters for kids with sensory challenges

The ‘Sensitive Santa’ concept gives children and other individuals with sensory challenges a chance to meet and have their photo taken with Santa outside of peak trading hours.

Scentre Group this year is rolling out the concept to 40 of its Westfield shopping centres across Australia and New Zealand. All bookings will be hosted as private sessions, with subdued lighting and no background music.

“Our hope is that by extending the Sensitive Santa photography sessions to centres across Australia and New Zealand, more families will benefit from the experience and treasure their photos for years to come,” said Phil McAveety, Scentre Group director of customer experience.

Sensitive Santa is just one of the initiatives Scentre Group has lined up for its Westfield shopping centres over the holidays. Others include:

  • Pet photography with Santa (various times throughout the Christmas season)
  • Kids workshops, including sessions on how to make gingerbread creations and ornaments to hang on the tree (will take place throughout the entire holiday break)
  • Christmas disco where people can sing and dance to favourite Christmas songs, with a DJ, face painter, stilt walker and other Christmas characters to entertain the kids 
  • A variety of Christmas characters will be roaming the centres, including Frosty the Snowman, Mrs Claus, carollers and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Elizabeth City Centre: Santa and Frozen 2

Vicinity Centres’ Elizabeth City Centre in South Australia will expand its Sensory Santa sessions, which were first introduced in 2015, with eight sessions scheduled on select dates from November 24 to December 11.

The Sensory Santa sessions will be held at the Elizabeth City Centre Christmas Cave, located in Oxenham Mall behind Lippitts Manufacturing Jewellers, to avoid the hustle and bustle of the North Mall Santa set. The Sensory Santa sessions will have no background music, no queues and include Santa helpers. Bookings are necessary.

Every child to visit the Sensory Santa sessions will receive a free gift and each family will receive a goodie bag.

Children with special needs and their families can also enjoy a free screening of Frozen 2 in a softened sensory environment on December 8 from 10:30. Bookings are also necessary.

Broadmeadows Central: Choir of Hard Knocks

The Salvation Army Christmas carollers will give a performance by Frankston’s Choir of Hard Knocks, featuring the homeless and disadvantaged, at Vicinity’s Broadmeadows Central shopping centre in Victoria.

The performance will take place on December 4 from 10:30-11:30, and there will be a gift-wrapping station with donations to support Community Support Frankston.

Christmas activities will be launched at Broadmeadows Central on November 30, with a Santa’s Parade (with Santa, an elf, a nutcracker, Christmas fairy and retailer mascots) kicking things off November 29 from 11-11:30. The Salvation Army Christmas carollers will present from 11-2, and Hoyts cinema will be giving away free popcorn for the whole day.

Christmas decorations are to be installed on November 27.

The Strand Arcade: Native flowers and twinkle lights

The Strand Arcade in Sydney has gone for aesthetics, adorning the centre will a specially commissioned installation of Christmas decorations inspired by native flowers.

Each branch stands at 3.5 metres tall, 9.8 metres long and vertically spans multiple levels of the arcade. The hanging installations feature a combined count of 15 acrylic green leaves, nine red budding flowers and whimsical golden gum-nuts that are brought to life with cascading lights.

The centre also features a gum-nut pod, placed on the ground floor and sits at 4 metres in height and 4.1 metres in length, mirroring the native elements of its hanging counterpart.

Both installations will be illuminated throughout the festive season with the help of 27,500 individual twinkling Christmas lights that cover each of the ornaments from tip to toe.

Mirvac: “It’s your Christmas”

This year, shopping centre owner Mirvac has chosen the theme “It’s your Christmas”, where the events and experiences on offer are tailored to each centre’s customer profile.

“We want everyone that comes into a Mirvac centre this Christmas to feel like they’re able to tell their own story and share it with their community,” said Nicole Imberger, director of experience for retail. She said it would be a Christmas of imagination and creativity brought to life in the centres.

Kids will be able to make their own Little Golden Books at drawing stations in centres. The sessions will include storybook reading and write-your-own-story activations.

At Birkenhead Point Outlet Centre, the team has taken the Gingerbread Man story to create a fresh Christmas icon that will be activated through a gingerbread man wall and gingerbread house.

All 17 of Mirvac’s shopping centres in Australia have prepared several activities for kids which include Christmas card making, wreath making, gingerbread decorating and Christmas sack decorating.

There will be pop-up bars featuring Christmas spirits for adults to take breaks from shopping

Activations in the centres will include community art installations, a high-tech augmented reality snow globe, Tinsel Town, pop-up experiences like table setting, one-stop-shops. 

Most of Mirvac’s centres will also offer a series of guest services including gift wrapping, gift concierge and even a shopping nanny for the kids. 

Moonee Ponds Central in Melbourne will feature live bands, Christmas tree giveaways and a Mrs Claus helper for shoppers to add to the season atmosphere. 

East Village in inner east Sydney will have Christmas carollers and a themed night market from December 6- 8. A Christmas feast for the locals, making a new tradition together, will be complemented with classes such as macramè making classes.

At Orion Springfield Central in Queensland, visitors can look forward to a life-size Santa cottage, dance performances and a street party to launch celebrations.

Rundle Mall: 100 trees and Lego

One hundred Christmas trees featuring more than 100,000 twinkly lights have been set up along the 520m-long open-air mall in the Adelaide CBD.

Its highlight includes the 10 window displays in the mall where each window is individually themed. One of the window displays is The Gift of Imagination Lego display, made of 150,000 bricks, which has been built without any internal structures.

Johanna Williams, Rundle Mall general manager, said the display of the life-size Santa and his elves has proven incredibly popular with visitors already.

“Lego’s been a perennial favourite for kids big and small for generations and has had a resurgence in popularity after this year’s Lego Masters television show,” she said.

“In creating a display that appeals to all ages, Lego was a logical choice for our festive display and it’s quickly become one of our most popular windows.”

The Lego Gift of Imagination display will also form the centre’s online competition launching on November 25. Entrants need to guess the number of elves featured in The Gift of Imagination display and lodge their entry online. The winner and two runners up will each receive vouchers to the Myer Centre within Rundle Mall.

In the leadup to Christmas, choirs, brass bands and orchestras will also present to share the joy of music with shoppers, and the Salvation Army will also be fundraising in the mall throughout November and December to support their work with families in need.

According to Williams, the toys featured in Santa’s workshop will also be donated to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Chadstone: White Christmas

The holiday spirit is already in full swing at Chadstone, which recently unveiled its ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas installation. The installation includes snow falling on the hour, talking reindeer, a Christmas tree which smells of pine and photo moment with Santa.

The centre also recently held its Shot ‘Til You Drop event with retail stores offering extra longer trading hours.

“Christmas at Chadstone is truly magical, not only can you visit Santa, you can tick off some early shopping, arrange your decorations and if you’re really organised, finalise your table setting for Christmas day,” said Chadstone ambassador Bec Judd.

Queen Victoria Building: Styling services on demand

The Queen Victoria Building in Sydney has launched its new RISE styling sessions just in time for Christmas. The styling sessions, which it says would make the perfect Christmas gift, will see guests receiving gold-class treatment and styling tips from Sydney stylist Carol Sae Young.

The centre has also put up its iconic Christmas tree which stands at 24 metres over three floors.

Will centres’ efforts create Christmas magic for tenants?

Shopping centres are cashing in on the magic of Christmas, drawing shoppers with their special activities and events.

With competition in the retail industry getting fiercer than ever, Deloitte said it is certainly critical that within the retail ecosystem, retailers and landlords should work together and not against each other.

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