Sunday, 10 August 2014

David Jones and Myer Not Yet Christmas Ready

Well not exactly. But now that I have your attention let me explain. I was in both David Jones and Myer (Chadstone, Australia) today (Sunday) and there was a distinct lack of any presence to do with Christmas. Other than in David Jones where there were signs of the coming of Christmas. A cleared area with what looked like a few left overs from last Christmas. Why mention this?

Bestsellers are expected to be British designs featuring London themes and the Union flag
Selfridges Christmas Shop 2014 - With its British Christmas theme.
Well a couple of weeks ago I did mention in my article which of the department stores around the globe I thought which would be the first to open up their Christmas store. The money was on Selfridges. I knew that we were close to new Christmas stock coming because our local Christmas store, Santas Place did have a 30% discount advertised outside the store but suddenly it disappeared. This I usually take as a sign that the new Christmas stock is now in and ready to sell.

So if I had gone down the bookies and placed money on Selfridges, being the first to open, would I have won the bet. Yep. I am pretty confident that I would have. As I tweeted on the 5th August, Okay looks like have gone early again this year. But wait is this really the case. So I have turned to Mr. Google to find out. 

Macy's and Bloomingdales in the US don't appear to have any store open yet but do have some Christmas decorations online. So I turned to the UK to find that Selfridges great rivals, John Lewis have not yet set up store. They do have an announcement on their website, that Christmas 2014 is on its way. Harrods on the other hand put up a cheeky tweet on Twitter on 25th July stating, 'There are some items including decorations and food available at The Harrods Christmas Shop (2nd Floor) and in the Food Halls.' So Harrods have gone half cocked with Christmas, but will have something ready at the end of August. Liberty the other department store in London have an announcement on their website stating that their Christmas Shop is now open on the 4th floor.

So who won this years race. Well again I think it has to go to Selfridges. Want to be a part of it, other than visiting, here is a video on this years Christmas store.

What do I need this year? Now let me have a think about that. Just hope David Jones and Myer get going soon.

Image Source: Daily Mail

Monday, 4 August 2014

Why an Aussie Christmas seems, well, just strange

As a family we emigrated to Australia 6 years ago this month and have loved almost every minute. The one thing though that I still can not get my head around is that Christmas is in the middle of summer and it is December. Having a roast when it is frequently in the mid to high 20s (high 60s F), seems well, just strange.
How I like to remember Christmas in the UK. But it really just kept raining
Let’s take a step back in time. My first Christmas memory was getting a bike from Father Christmas, when I was four and not being able to use it on Boxing Day. Why, because the whole of the Gower Peninsula in South Wales was under a blanket of thick snow. So instead of using a bike, I was using the neighbour’s old wooden sledge, down the middle of the street we lived on.

So from a young age I have associated Christmas with snow and cold weather. Or more like the lyrics of Greg Lake’s song, ‘They said there'll be snow at Christmas…But instead, it just kept on raining.’ So with Christmas in July out of the way last month, it was a shock to the system when I got a call from my wife saying it was snowing, last week. Now that is no surprise in itself. But it just doesn’t snow on the Mornington Peninsula (about one hour south of Melbourne, Australia), not at sea level anyway. And in August, that just sent my internal senses slightly into a spin. To add to this, we had a really heavy frost, to the delight of my son. The next best thing for him than snow is walking on the crunch that is frost on grass. Was a joy to behold.

To get around the feeling of everything being upside down, at Christmas, from the first year we arrived, we created a ‘new traditional’ Christmas. So each Christmas we make a day of it in the City (Melbourne). We visit Father Christmas at Myer’s and then the Melbourne must have, the Myer Christmas windows, which are just amazing. And you have to queue. And I mean you have to queue. If you don’t get there early on a Saturday, you are looking at queuing the length of one block. We used to visit the free show at the Crown, but they changed it a few years ago and the new show is very disappointing. On the way home, we then visit the Christmas Bazaar at the Swedish Church in the leafy and wealthy suburb of Toorak. It is set in the lovely grounds of the old British Governors’ house and the sound of Scandinavian languages and smell of delicious food fill the air.

So what do we miss other than family and a good panto. Well bizarrely the wet and cold in the run up to Christmas, one of the things that made us leave the UK in the first place. But that is all forgotten, because there isn’t anything much better than spending Boxing Day on the beach, instead of a drafty British home watching television.

Image Source: Bert Kaufmann via Compfight cc

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Bye bye Christmas in July - Bring on the Christmas department in stores

So the 27th July is 150 days to Christmas. Now there is a usual fact to know when you are playing Christmas Trivia Pursuits. And today my son called me 'bah humbug' because I wouldn't let him do something. Which got me to think how common the use of Dickens is in everyday language, even at the end of July.

Selfridges Christmas department 2013
Selfridges, London - Christmas department 2013

So this year Christmas in July comes to a deflated end as apparently, I am now Scrooge. Not a bad effort. But this year I have found it really interesting to see how many people have entered into the Spirit of Christmas in July. I know someone who was having their first Christmas in July this year in Sydney, and was really looking forward to it. Particularly as she was in-charge of the mulled wine. Damn, I know that there was something missing this year. That said I even walked passed someone this week roasting chestnuts or was that a dream. Which ever, Christmas has been on the mind the last few weeks.

There has been so much talk about Christmas, it is quite outstanding. Even at work we have been discussing our campaigns for the festive season. I even attended a webinar about planning for Christmas. And the pièce de résistance was I even had someone email me a poll this last week asking if I have already started my Christmas campaign. Crickey and I thought that I was smart and planning early.

As everyone keeps saying, Christmas comes earlier each year. And this year it does appear to. Lets face it it is August next month and lets bet that one of the major department stores around the world will have their Christmas decoration department open. Who will it be Bloomingdales, David Jones, John Lewis, Liberty, Myer, Macy or Selfridges. Lets wait and see. Selfridges went early last year and opened their Christmas department early August. So in theory it should now be less than a week. Phew, that is so early. Anyway now that July is almost out of the way bring on the next main event. The Department store, Christmas department.

Image Source: Daily Mail

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Rise of Christmas in July

To be honest I don't think I had ever noticed Christmas in July until I emigrated to Australia. The first July we arrived I was staggered by how many shops really went to town with Christmas decorations in the middle of July.

White Company - Christmas in July at Rosewood London

Now it is kind of understandable, why Christmas in July is so big in Australia, particularly in the southern state of Victoria. It is cold. Not as cold as say a Northern European or American winter, but when it can hits the 45c in the middle of summer, 5c feels damn cold. Now the origins of Christmas in July in Australia, are unclear. Some think it is likely to be from Irish immigrants in the 19th century. I was surprised though, to read the other day that in the US, Christmas in July dates back to July 1884 as celebrated by an Ohio fraternity. Why, I am not sure. Christmas in July, in the heat, kind of doesn't make sense. In Australia where it is winter, yep sure. And it is fun to get together with a bunch of Poms to listen to Slade and have some turkey.

Then I thought about it. When was the first time I really came across Christmas in July. Well in fact it is quiet a famous date. I was at an iab event. The event was about getting your website ready for promotion at Christmas. There was Slade playing in the background and they were serving mince pies. The day was 6 July 2005. The day it was announced that London won the Olympics, they stopped the conference to make the announcement. Looking back this was really my first exposure to Christmas in July.

I noticed last year that there was a sudden up lift with Christmas in July, particularly in the US and this year the UK. What I have noticed. Over the last few weeks, and even in June some of the major UK retailers, shops and online brands have been really gunning for it. The supermarkets like Tesco seem to have lead the way. Then there was the department stores, Debenhams, John Lewis, Mark and Spencer with their brussels sprout juice. SK-11 the cosmetic company wheeled out their Christmas gift sets last week. Even Poundland had a Christmas in July event. The White Company (a brand we love) held a luxurious event at the Rosewood in London. There have been many others, but the one that really caught our eye was Argos and their online Christmas presentation, for toys. 

It has had us thinking, is Christmas in July now becoming not just a time for friends to get together and remember the old country, but in the northern hemisphere, in particular, a fantastic opportunity for marketing exploitation. Personally yes, it probably is. It will be interesting to see what next year brings.

For the record, Slade and turkey in the middle of a winter in July, may seem almost alien but it is a great excuse to get together with friends and have a great time.

Image source: The White Company

Sunday, 13 July 2014

How to avoid a Christmas in July drama.

Sometimes, you should listen to your own advice. Last week in my article about 10 things to help plan Christmas in July, I should have listened to point 9. Planning. My advice was to not leave it until the last minute. Well, hmm guess what. Yep, we have left it to the last minute. Each year we have the party in someone's house, but this year we have booked a room for the event. But haven't, until this week discussed the food. Whoops.

Thank goodness the planning for Christmas in July is but once a year.

So here are my two Christmas in July dramas from this week.

On Thursday, my wife was not to well, so I went to meet up with all the other wives to organise the Christmas in July party for next week, for over 50 people. That is correct, next week. Nothing like planning well in advance. As a male I took the direct route. Everyone chip into a kitty, then allocate out who does what. Nah, didn't quiet work out like that. We went around in circles.

Firstly it was ah lets get in some caterers. Not a bad idea, but this soon to the party, and calling at 8 o'clock at night. Not sure that was ever going to work. At about this time one of the husbands, came in and suggested exactly the same as I had. A kitty. There was silence for a moment and then beautifully the women ignored the comment.  And this is the part that made me chuckle. The caterers who were offering a Christmas lunch, included the turkey but instead of roast spuds, baked potatoes. Baked potatoes for a Christmas lunch, even in July, this was a stretch to far. At this stage it became apparant that Turkey, as flavourless as it is with roast potatoes, was a must have. So that was that. If we could not have roast potatoes with Turkey we would have to do it ourselves. So after a couple of calls, it was decided that caterers where not required.

Wonderful indecision. I felt that one family should not shell out for the meat, hence the suggestion of the kitty. So instead the meat this time around was divided between four families but using smaller birds and one joint of beef. Tick that seemed to work. Then we just allocated out the rest of the food for the party. So after two hours, it just took us twenty minutes to allocate all the requirements for the party.

Secondly. Ensure before the venue is booked, the food is organised that your wife is happy in what she will be wearing. Oh not a great place to be, if not. Not even H&M can come to the rescue on this one. I now have a whole week's drama ahead of me before the outfit is decided upon. Believe me, organising the food with a bunch of wives is a damn sight easier.

Tip to be added to next years tips for Christmas in July will be, just book a restaurant and buy the wives outfit in the January sales.

Image Source:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

10 Things to help plan for Christmas in July

Popular in Australia, Christmas in July is a winter social event. It has no official date and it is even unclear where it has its origins. It is likely to have been created by expats from Northern Europe, probably from Britain and Ireland. The emphasis is on recreating the cold Christmases of the old country and celebrating with traditional festive fayre. For those living in Australia or Christmas enthusiasts here are the top 10 things to do with Christmas in July.

Christmas in July. For the cooler Aussie months.

10. Set a date – as Christmas in July traditionally doesn't have a set date, you will need to set one. If there is an unofficial date it is likely to be the weekend following the 16th July. Families and restaurants in particular make their bookings around these dates. Even ski resorts like Mount Buller (a major ski resort in Victoria, Australia) have a Christmas in July event, where Father Christmas can be seen skiing.

9. Planning – like the real event, Christmas in July requires a deal of planning, particularly if the day’s event is being organised at home. Not just who to invite but the gathering of all the festive trimmings. It is advisable to start this in May or June and not leave it to the last minute.

8. Christmas Crackers – not the easiest item to purchase in the middle of an Australian winter but here are some pointers. If you are organising a gathering with a group of friends, see who has some left over from the previous Christmas, then mix and match the selection. The ‘one dollar’ shop sometimes have some left on the shelf or in the stockroom, check for availability. Use the internet or specialist stores, but plan this in advance to allow for delivery.

7. Mince Pies – generally these have to be home made. Food stores don’t stock these out of season, unless you are very lucky. Fruit mincemeat is not too difficult to purchase. But if you require gluten free mix, this is. The best work around for this is to buy extra at Christmas and store away. Even specialist shops don’t stock gluten free mix.

6. Christmas Cake or Christmas Pudding – unless you are a Christmas ‘die hard’, these two Christmas favourites are not a necessity for Christmas in July. Not just time consuming to make but you will also find not much demand. Christmas in July is usually just a one evening event. So you don’t have the usual days or weeks to consume these.

5. Make it an evening event – Christmas in July is very popular particularly amongst the British expat community. To make the event feel more like a traditional Northern European Christmas, the event generally starts late in the afternoon, just before dark. The additional coolness of the night, makes it feel more traditional.

4. Christmas Music – no event is complete without some festive music. So it is time to dig out the Christmas CD or the section of the mp3 that only gets looked at once a year. The sounds of Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’, really gets the event moving.

3. Turkey – plan in advance for this. If you require a large turkey, your butcher may well have to pre-order one for you. The other option is to buy a couple of small frozen turkeys from the supermarket. Cranberry sauce to accompany the turkey is generally stocked in supermarkets.

2. Christmas Tree – like the Christmas cake, unless you are a ‘die hard’ traditionalist and you can find a Christmas tree farm to cut down a tree for you, don’t bother with a real tree. The best option is to use an artificial tree. If you don’t have one, borrow one from a guest, if they own one.

1. Presents – no Christmas in July event is complete without presents. No need to go over board. Set a budget amongst those attending and have a ‘secret Santa’. Organise this in advance, particularly if children are involved. Ensure that the numbers balance.

There you have it, planning for Christmas in July. A Christmas tradition, that is out of season.

Image Source: Gibraltar Hotel Bowral

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Top 10 Toys for Christmas 2014 vs the 70's

Hamleys, 'the toy shop' released earlier in the week, this year's top 10 toys for this Christmas. And the list was, well dominated by hi-tech toys. Toys I have never heard of, and I have a nine year old. Who at the moment is just interested in the World Cup, Hiccup and Toothless, Vikings and Lego. So the list below is possibly alien to him. And to be honest there has been no mention of his Father Christmas list, yet this year. Anyway this is the Hamleys list for Christmas 2014:

1. My Friend Cayla (£75)
2. Doh Vinci Style and Store Vanity design kit (£25)
3. Kidizoom Smart Watch (£50)
4. Barbie Colour Change Bag (£40)
5. Teksta T-Rex (£59.99)
6. Leapfrog LeapTV (£135)
7. Transformers Chomp & Stomp robot (£115)
8. BoomCo Rapid Madness blaster (£65)
9. Ice Skating Anna & Elsa from Frozen (£30)
10. Xeno toy (£100)

Hamleys toy shop

The first thing that struck me is that the Tranformers robot is £115, that is $210 Australian dollars. You can get a bike for that. A bike. Now that got me thinking what did I want when I was 9'ish in the 70's, for Christmas. Well a bike was top of the list along with a Hornby railway set, with the Flying Scotsman engine. And I was really lucky to get both, on separate Christmases. The bike wasn't new, but I loved it and I am sure my father was more excited about the railway set than I was.

But what else was top of the list of toys, for a boy in the 70's. I have no idea what was top of my sister's list but I do remember that an Action Man with as much military equipment was essential. Lego, as now with our son was always on the list and I think I was happy with that. 

I am sure though at some stage some of the following toys would have been somewhere in the mix and between myself and my sister, I do remember them being in the house. The Etch A Sketch, which was real hi-tech then. The sketch was a sketching toy, that basically draw straight lines and right angles. But if you were really cool, you could put a curve or bend on a corner. 

For slightly older children, there was the brainy kids toy. Mastermind. A game of colour pegs. Guess the correct peg colour in order. Yep that was one toy that frequently flew across the room. 

I didn't have the next toy but my best mate did (and we have it now). Mousetrap. A crazy board game of building plastic pieces together to catch a plastic mouse. I loved this game possibly because I didn't have it. I do remember it being more fun then than now as an adult.

Then there was Tonka. Oh how I loved my Tonka toys. Before the health and safety brigade got hold of toys, this was the toy for digging up your mum's prized rose bush and for getting cut to ribbons. And it wasn't from the roses. Tonka toys were sharp as anything but I loved them to death. I still have them, well mum does at least. I wouldn't let my son near them. The Cotton Wool generation and all.

As already mentioned, Lego. The KING of all toys. At any age since the 40's this has to be the best toy in the world. It is creative and building is only limited by your imagination. Unlike hi-tech toys. Now where did I put my smartphone?

Image Source: The Guardian