'Tis the season to be shopping: what the Healthy High Street champions did during Christmas

Healthy High Street champions from large retailers used the Christmas shopping period to boost sales, increase footfall to their high streets and bring together their local communities through fun and engaging activities.

Christmas is an important time of the year for retailers, with the promise of customers spending more time on the high street, buying presents and gifts for their loved ones.

But with the growth of online shopping and the challenges facing our high streets, the Healthy High Streets champions play a key role in working with other partners to implement engaging initiatives which bring people into our towns and encourage retail sales.

This case study highlights some of the positive activities undertaken by Healthy High Street towns over the Christmas period to increase footfall looking at Altrincham, Maidenhead and Ormskirk.

Altrincham

Healthy High Street champions from Boots, M&S and Santander work in close partnership with Altrincham Forward, an initiative bringing together the town's key stakeholders to create jobs, reduce empty retail units and increase footfall on the high street.

During the Christmas period numerous events took place on Altrincham’s town centre, with the Healthy High Street champions playing a key part, to encourage families to spend more time shopping in their local area. Initiatives included switching on the Christmas lights, a lantern parade, which brought 1,000 visitors to the high street, as well as a Christmas-themed treasure hunt where a reindeer was put up in each of the champions’ stores.

The Healthy High Street champions also supported smaller retailers during the Christmas period. For example, stickers promoting Altrincham Forward and the Christmas events were featured on all click and collect orders placed at their stores. The stickers, as well as posters advertising Altrincham First’s website, were paid for by the local council, and these were displayed in Boots, M&S and Santander shop windows.

Boots, M&S and Santander also better aligned their working hours with independent businesses and large and small retailers alike took part in ‘late night Thursdays’ boosting footfall and trade during the busy Xmas period.

Maidenhead

Maidenhead has seen Boots, M&S and Santander work closely alongside the Maidenhead Town Partnership to improve the fortunes of the high street and worked on three key initiatives to drive footfall during the Christmas period.

The first initiative saw the town centre manager secure free car parking on several weekends leading up to Christmas. The newly created ‘Business Forum’ ensured that all stores promoted this offer through leaflets and posters. Members of staff were also encouraged to tell customers about the offer. This increased engagement led to a 4% increase in footfall during the days there was free parking compared to 2013.

Maidenhead already had an established ‘Christmas Events’ calendar and in 2014, the Business Forum made sure the calendar had a wider range of events than before. Again, stores were encouraged to hand-out leaflets and talk to customers about the upcoming events. As a result, footfall to the high street increased, especially for the switching on of the Christmas lights, with a 10% increase in footfall compared to the previous year. 

The third initiative concerned late night trading. Boots and M&S worked hard to introduce three days of late night trading during the week and footfall increased up by 38% on these days. Where Boots and M&S opened late from late-November through to the end of December, Boots saw a 3% increase in average transactions after 6pm and M&S saw a significant boost to footfall over their late night trading period.

Through this link between the Healthy High Street champions and the Maidenhead Town Partnership, there was a reported 3% growth in footfall for December 2014 compared to 2013, which is in sharp contrast to the 8% decline reported from April-November 2014 when compared to the previous year.

Ormskirk

Ormskirk in West Lancashire is represented by Healthy High Street champions from Boots, M&S and Santander. Together they work in partnership with Love Ormskirk, a local town partnership which brings together retailers large and small.

Through this partnership, the Healthy High Street champions campaigned West Lancashire Council for better parking rates during the Christmas period. This resulted in shoppers getting two hours parking for the price of one, from the first week in November to the end of December, helping to boost trade and footfall.

The local council also agreed to fund a marquee, which hosted the ‘Inside-out market’. The market was a great success, bringing together numerous independent retailers under one roof, including a local bar and jewellers. The Healthy High Street champions from Santander and M&S also got into the act by setting up their own stalls. The marquee was a great success and even led to one of the High Street champions being interviewed on BBC Radio Lancashire.

Lessons learnt

The Christmas period represents a great opportunity for businesses on the high street, both big and small, to boost trade and create long-lasting relationships with their customers, hopefully leading to repeat business.

From Ormskirk and Altrincham in the North West to Maidenhead further south, this case study highlights the varied initiatives carried out by the Healthy High Street Champions. Working together with their local town centre partnerships, the champions helped boost the number of shoppers in their towns and created better relationships with the smaller retailers.