Come Christmas time, the humble carrier bag is one of retailers’ most effective lures. Whether disposable or ‘for life’, a carrier bag will merrily bounce along the high street on the arm of a satisfied customer, heralding a store’s desirability and Christmas cheer.
Perennially iconic designs, such as Selfridges’ yellow, aren’t messed with, but for others Advent is a great opportunity to carry a brand message beyond the shop floor. ‘At Christmas, shops are fighting for everybody’s last pound, and presence on the street is really important,’ says Emma Jones, senior creative at Construct, which created packaging for Mulberry’s first international seasonal campaign. The Mulberry Christmas carrier is a white-and-gold, embossed and foiled, oversized envelope, evoking Alice-in-Wonderland escapism. ‘We wanted to capitalise on the quirky Englishness and playful personality of the brand, have fun and bring a little bit of magic back,’ says Jones. The seasonal campaign is part of Mulberry’s long-term strategy of repositioning the brand. ‘It’s an opportunity to create interest and put a smile on people’s faces,’ she adds.
At the value end of the high street, many have toned down the glamour and plumped for a return to the traditionally festive. Gap has dug out previous years’ simple, red-plus-tree design, and House of Fraser’s first Christmas carrier features trees formed from snowflakes, also on red. ‘It is something very bright and traditional, but with a modern twist,’ says Dean Healey, House of Fraser head of visual merchandising. ‘Red is what Christmas is about.’
Designers at Marks & Spencer had the same notion, replacing previous’ years glitzy colour schemes of turquoise and purple with a typographic approach to the red-and-tree formula. According to M&S senior design manager Caroline Wooden, there was already a hint of recession in the air, when they started on the theme. ‘It was about getting back to traditional values, to be a little bit less extravagant,’ she explains.
Ted Baker is trying to beat the credit crunch gloom with a fairy-lights bag, including a limited-edition £5 version with real twinkling bulbs, while Cos wanted to reflect its brand’s aesthetics, attention to detail and high quality in its set of bags. ‘We wanted them to feel precious, without being ostentatious,’ says Cos creative director, Rebekka Bay, adding that they were ‘beautiful enough to end up under the Christmas tree’.
And that’s the idea: from shop, to high street, to home, it’s Christmas retail cheer all the way.