It is 24.2 miles from my home in southeast London to Lakeside shopping centre. Given that Croydon is six miles away from my house, the West End seven miles away and even Bluewater is on the right side of the river, the chances of me doing my Christmas shopping there are remote.

Yet every time I step onto the train to go to work, I’m assailed by ads imploring me to shop at the Essex centre: “Free Santa’s grotto…with a free gift for every child”, or “We’re open later”. The messages are simple, but pretty dull and nothing to persuade anyone to drive past Bluewater for.

Lakeside isn’t alone in trying to up its profile. In a cab I was in yesterday, the driver was listening to an inane radio competition sponsored by Brent Cross, while, in a nationwide attempt to build its brand, The Mall has sponsored the cringe-tastic latest series of Vernon Kay’s All Star Family Fortunes on ITV1.

Of course, if landlords want to spend their money on raising the profile of their schemes then that’s fine, but it’s not all their money – it’s retailers’ money too. So, while contributing to Christmas marketing is a well-established trend, it’s still important to question if the money is being well spent.

Retailers spend a huge amount of time ensuring that their Christmas ad spend is well-targeted and directed at exactly the right people. They need to ensure their landlords are doing the same with their money.

A targeted campaign in local papers, or on the backs of buses in the immediate area, could be a cost-effective way of reminding customers of a centre’s benefits. The Mall’s approach also has its merits: building a brand that will encourage shoppers back to their local community shopping centre.

But is plastering trains that always stay south of the Thames with ads for a centre north of the Thames the best use of the marketing budget? Some retailers might not be so sure.

The danger is that centres are spending tenants’ money diverting shopper spend from one branch of a retailer’s chain to another. After all, Arcadia or Marks & Spencer probably don’t care whether money is spent at its Lakeside branch or its Bluewater branch, as long as it’s spent in one of its stores.

Whether you’re a retailer or a landlord, I’d be really interested to hear your views. E-mail me via the link below.

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