Creating immersive and memorable experiences for retail customers during the holiday season is a process that unfolds all year round at 19 Cadillac Fairview shopping centres across Canada.
“It’s one of the biggest cultural moments of the year, so it’s key for us to provide services and experiences that connect communities and bring them together to celebrate the season,” says Craig Flannagan, vice-president of consumer marketing, Cadillac Fairview.
Plans are kick-started in the spring, and as the national holiday program rolls out, regional property teams ensure activities reflect their specific market. Different locations bring challenges because property activities need to resonate with shoppers in each region.
Every year, new elements are added to the holiday list of to-dos. Last year, the company began to focus on shareworthy décor in its properties and interactive moments for visitors. To play up the open-concept environment of CF Shops at Don Mills in Toronto, a new fireside lounge and festive outdoor patio opened this season.
“The space is fully licensed and equipped with four fire pits where guests can warm up and relax on Muskoka chairs and benches as they enjoy food and holiday cheer from participating vendors,” says Flannagan.
In Vancouver, CF Pacific Centre welcomed a new CF Gift Wrap Valet service that launched at 12 other properties. Customers can have their gifts wrapped in a pop-up lounge, which offers complimentary drinks and snacks.
These unique offerings heighten the in-property experience for consumers at a time when online shopping continues to grow among Canadians. According to a new Angus Reid Institute poll, about 65 per cent of Canadians said they would do more online shopping in the next two years, while 19 per cent said the majority of their purchases would be online if they weren’t already.
However, 74 per cent of Canadians said they still prefer to shop in bricks-and-mortar stores for every product except entertainment media. And another survey by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada shows consumers prefer shopping in stores on Boxing Day rather than online.
“The bricks-and-mortar retail experience is not going away,” notes Flannagan. “We are still seeing strong foot traffic in our properties throughout the holidays, beginning with Black Friday. It’s our busiest time of the year.”
Purchasing a product immediately versus waiting for it to be shipped also leads to immediate consumer gratification, he adds.
“The retail landscape in Canada is undergoing dramatic shifts—today’s shopper is looking for a superior shopping experience and that’s why CF is constantly looking for ways to innovate,” he says, “Part of the excitement of holiday shopping is going to a local shopping property where there are hundreds of retailers to choose from to physically see what’s available.”
Returning holiday experiences like Christmas tree unveilings, live performances and Santa, including a Sensitive Santa, launched in partnership with Autism Speaks, help build a tradition at the properties.
“Our shoppers tell us they need inspiration and efficiency. This guides us in the experiences we build. It’s all about delivering an unforgettable experience.”