Selfridges’ move to open its Christmas shop in August is entirely in keeping with its now established reputation as a maverick retailer.

Harrods is doing it in a couple of weeks’ time.

Liberty opens its version in the first week of September.

And Harvey Nics doesn’t kick off until early November.

Selfridges, unsurprisingly, is doing it now, devoting a massive 3000 sq ft to a celebration of all things Christmas – baubles, tinsel and cards included – smack bang in the middle of summer.

Once you’ve overcome the despondency of ‘Christmas coming ever earlier’, you might just agree that this makes good business sense for perhaps the most inspirational and creative retailer in the UK today.

Trailblazer

The move is entirely in keeping with Selfridges’ now established reputation as a maverick retailer.

For a shop that has been enshrined in tradition for most of this decade, it’s taken no little element of bravery to back initiatives such as the Festival of Imagination, an interactive Fragrance Lab, an in-store cinema, a No Noise department, and more recently, a gender-neutral range.

This is also the retailer that made its back yard into a skate park not so long ago, and is giving floor space to etailers Misguided and Etsy.

“Commercially, being the first at anything tends to be a savvy move in retail. Christmas is no exception”

Nick Gray, Live & Breathe

Clearly Selfridges has re-embraced the fact that delivering great experiences creates brand advocates, and within this context, being the first to open a Christmas shop seems to pale into insignificance, certainly in the creativity stakes.

Commercially though, being the first at anything tends to be a savvy move in retail. Christmas is no exception and Selfridges is exploiting its understanding that it is more than just a department store: it’s a global tourist destination that attracts shoppers all year round.

An early Christmas shop is yet another reason for tourists to visit, another reason to part with their cash within its walls rather than those of its equally high-profile competitors.

Enticing early shoppers

It’s a move that could also prove beneficial to us Brits too.

Almost a fifth of people don’t budget properly and 14% of us incur new debt just to cover the cost of Christmas. So Selfridges is offering people a chance to ease the financial stress of the festive season by encouraging earlier planning – after all, 58% of people already start their Christmas shopping in November.

“The retailers that blend the experiential elements of the high street with the convenience and value of online shopping will win at Christmas”

Nick Gray, Live & Breathe

To attract early shoppers, brands can win by focusing on the research stage, ensuring a strong digital presence and SEO, or by setting out their Christmas stall in the middle of summer – like Selfridges –  encouraging people to shop early and avoid the December rush or stampedes of Black Friday.

Ultimately, the brands and retailers that seamlessly blend the experiential elements of the high street with the convenience, ease and value of online shopping will win at Christmas.

Given the speed of change in consumer shopping habits, and the constant improvement in digital technology, it’s difficult to predict exactly what our shopping habits will be in 10 years’ time – or even next month.

At the end of a frankly hit-and-miss summer trading season, Selfridges’ early start to a festive trading period is nothing short of uplifting. In fact, Selfridges’ may well be short changing us by only giving us 144 days until Christmas.

  • Nick Gray is managing director of marketing agency Live & Breathe