September 2, 2020 /Experience

Establishing Connection in Retail Design for Christmas 2020

Christmas – a time of year that brands plan and prepare for six months in advance. Or, as famously aired in a three-hour documentary back in 2013, Liberty of London commences Christmas plans on December 27th, almost a year in advance. In this most important time for retail design, brands are on a mission to create store moments that resemble nirvana, going to huge lengths to ensure they deliver a bigger and better impact than the year before.

Christmas 2020 is a different story. It is a time that will feel the echoes of 2020’s confinement – one of the most disconcerting things about this period was not being able to see family and friends. During this time, the desire to connect to loved ones and other humans was strong. Consumer sentiment to celebrate occasions such as Easter, Passover and birthdays were not diminished due to lockdown.

Empathetic brands and companies helped consumers rejoice in socially distanced birthdays via virtual parties over Zoom and Houseparty and raising a ‘quarantini’ or two. Seeking to find humour in hard times, Chicago bakery Bon Vivant delivered quarantine birthday cakes with the message ‘Can’t touch this’ and ‘Free the Toilet Paper’.

Consumers were equally searching for connection over the Easter weekend, a time that is usually defined by church services, egg hunts and indulgent Sunday lunches. Facebook saw the debut of a group called ‘Easter Egg Hunt 2020 with Social Distancing’ where parents were encouraged to make crafts with children and put them in their windows or passers-by to see. 

As we approach Christmas 2020, consumer demand for connection, safety, empathy and comfort will be indisputable factors and retail design will need to be a platform that facilitates and addresses these emotional needs.

Christmas 2020: Power of the physical space and sensory moments

Whilst digital spending has risen due to lockdown, we have learned that consumers are happy to purchase products online that they are already comfortable and familiar with. With this insight in mind, retail is able to innovate creatively and impactfully when it comes to providing an experience in-store, marking a strong point of difference when compared to online shopping.

In-store is key for products people do not already know about – gifting is all about newness and originality –  so combine that with the fact that people are desperate to get out!

A key insight we have attained during lockdown is that people prefer to shop in-store for new products or products that they don’t already know or aren’t familiar with. This is a particularly important insight for Christmas, as gifting is a key part to the occasion and the retail experience.

Freddie Sheridan, Director at Sheridan&Co

“A key insight we have attained during lockdown is that people prefer to shop in-store for new products or products that they don’t already know or aren’t familiar with. This is a particularly important insight for Christmas, as gifting is a key part to the occasion and the retail experience.” Freddie Sheridan, Director at Sheridan&Co comments, “frequently, consumers are in a position where they will be searching for newness and originality. At the same time, consumers are cautious about spending due to the financial consequences of the pandemic. Thus it is even more important for brands to deliver retail design strategies for Christmas that are truly worth visiting and leaving the comfort of their homes for”.

Not only do brands need to hero the product learning and testing experience in store for Christmas 2020, they need to facilitate the consumer desire to shop in an environment that is safe, but also exciting and invites moments of surprise. Now is the time for brands to rethink their in-store displays and product distribution. 

One notable sector we enjoy working with frequently is the beauty industry. Beauty brands can assist consumers when it comes to testing and learning about products by reimagining the process in doing so. Whilst hygiene is at the forefront of both retailers and consumers minds, it is imperative that testing and play can come to life in a fun, yet safe way. If we think back to Lush’s brand showcases in 2018, the products became a wonderland of bubble bath water fountains and shampoo showers to illustrate their latest innovation of ‘naked’ packaging. Now, with hand creams and sanitisers becoming such a staple product globally, there is an opportunity for brands to create theatre around this and create a sensory yet safe environment for consumers to shop, interact and play. 

One of the retail design questions that we face is how to create exquisite and beautiful spaces that ensure hygiene and the safety of consumers. Designing for social distancing does not have to be ugly or dull. In fact, it is an opportunity to innovate and create beautiful and inspired moments. Brands that take the time to strategise for this, will lead the way when it comes to designing retail in Christmas 2020.

Altruism and putting community first in order to create reactive retail design

At the height of the pandemic, kindness was a global dialogue spoken by brands and their consumers.

"This year will see a more charitable Christmas and brands will be key in ensuring consumers feel supported and the needs of the community are met. Christmas is a time of giving, and altruistic conversation should set the tone for retail this year."

Michael Sheridan, Chairman at Sheridan&Co

Retail design experiences should work hard to be community first – especially during a time during supply chain disruption that will see increasingly more regionalised distribution of products. What’s more, countries may incur localised lockdowns and varying travel bans. Understanding and valuing what is important to a city’s or country’s specific needs at a specific time will be crucial in terms of delivering a retail experience that resonates with the emotional needs of consumers at any given moment. Empathy and the capacity to pivot and be reactive will be key in terms of assessing what is important to consumers. Ensuring a localised strategy for stores has never been more imperative.

At Sheridan&Co, we design and create store experiences. If you would like advice on we can help your brand design and deliver a retail experience for Christmas 2020, get in touch at