Chris Bolling: The magic of the season

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Chris Bolling: The magic of the season

As competition increases, the stakes are higher, but the rewards are greater – how the festive season has evolved from a sprint to a commercial marathon. Chris Bolling (pictured above), head of sales AU, Scentre Group BrandSpace shares his insights exclusively with Campaign Brief…


As the AU head of advertising sales for Scentre Group, Brandspace my Christmas begins much earlier than most as we commence planning this critical festive period in February each year. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas as much as the millions of customers that flood to our destinations across this magical season. I love the variety of cultural celebrations we curate across our network of destinations that enable our customers to experience magical moments and create lifelong memories.

Whilst to many, the festive season appears to be a rapid burst of gift buying, I get to see behind the magician’s cloak as we plan the marathon of complex and nuanced events and ritual milestones that take place over a four-month period and understand why 6 in 10 of the Christmas destination visitors say that a Westfield centre is their first choice for their Christmas shopping.(1)

We have become synonymous with the season, so much so that the customer rituals and visitation to our destinations have become ingrained in Australian culture. This foundation role we play on the season has resulted in us seeing consecutive growth over the past five years especially in the areas of customer spend, dwell times and of course engagement with the much-loved Santa photography activations.

We have spent time this year understanding the value of a Westfield customer and enhancing the capabilities to more intimately meet them on their needs.

We are seeing a Seasonal customer who is more prepared than ever before.  82% have started Christmas shopping by mid-November(2). With conversations about budgets to the fore, our marketing team and advertising partners alike are creating opportunities to ensure that these early shoppers are delivered the full seasonal experience as they carefully plot and plan through gift lists and a gamut of festive entertaining.

By mid-December, nearly half of our customers have completed their purchasing(3) therefore making way for the last-minute shoppers who like the thrill of the chase, and are now beginning their scramble, and drive the incidence of spontaneous purchases.

This period also sees the increasing wave of fresh food customers starting their purchasing to support the varied seasonal gatherings. The season extends into January with Boxing Day sales and the relief of cooling air conditioning to take in a seasonal blockbuster, have a school holiday meal or attack the back-to-school lists.

What makes this marathon special – and what makes the Westfield audience most valuable? The answer is of course, magic.  The alchemy that happens when you combine our world class destinations with our high value customers.  The magic that is created as each one of our valued customers come and create their own special seasonal rituals with us.

This seasonal magic is brought to life in our homes and in our destinations, as our curated festive experiences draw valuable customers in more often and for longer. These magical destinations become a source of comfort and a reminder of tradition and continuity in a rapidly changing world.

Nothing represents magic more than Santa and in 2022 we saw a 16% increase in Santa visits, with over 170,000(4) groups presenting to capture their special moments and enjoy the festive ambiance of the decorations and retail offerings on display in our destinations through this period.

This year many of our customers are in a life stage where circumstances allow them to indulge fully whereas for others, brands will have to work harder than ever before to ensure that brand loyalty is retained.  We’ve identified six personas that our partners can buy this season through a customised suite of solutions, offering more ways for brands to capture the magic of these audiences, at each stage of their buying journey.

These personas offer a sense of familiarity, ones we can each connect with both at a personal level and as marketers. Whilst my professional life is full of plans, in my personal life I feel I associate more with The Last-minute Larry shopper persona.

Whatever your profile or target market, my advice is lace up and join me in the marathon of the season to ensure you aren’t outpaced by your competitors.

For more information, click here.

(1) 61% of customers stated Westfield is their First Choice for Christmas shopping – Westfield Customer Research 2022
(2) 82% of customers had started Christmas shopping by Mid November – Westfield Customer Research 2022
(3) Nearly half (44%) of customers had finished their Christmas shopping by mid-December – Westfield Customer Research 2022
(4) ScentreGroup Customer sessions data