The Hildreds Builds Jack and the Giant’s Castle

1218olafSince we can’t all make it out to Skegness, it’s become something of a Christmas tradition for us to share the handmade creations of Hildreds Shopping Centre manager Steve Andrews. Every year, Andrews puts together a custom Christmas grotto with such handmade charm that it draws in visitors from miles around.

This year, he created a 26 foot tall Giant’s Castle Grotto from Jack and the Beanstock. A giant peers down over the battlements, shouting “Fee Fie Foe Fum” to the visitors below every so often. Shoppers can press a button to smell what’s cooking in the giant’s kitchen (“eyeball crumble and toenail ice-cream,” says Andrews), and a familiar snowman face features in the midst of the display.

This year’s Christmas lights switch-on was a particularly special one. The center invited Ryan Smith to switch them on. Smith, a young local lad, was knocked off of his bike last year and suffered a severe head injury. Since then his dad, Mark Smith, and the Ryan Smith Foundation has been raising awareness to try and make it law that all children have to wear a safety helmet when riding bikes. They have appeared on the Pride of Britain Awards, national tv programs and more.

Over 12,000 people turned up to watch Ryan and Santa switch on the lights, which may or may not seem like an impressive number— but it’s over half the population of Skegness, and by far the busiest switch on in the town’s history.



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The Plaza Grants One Wild Wish

1218wishesIt’s great fun to make shoppers’ wishes come true during the holiday season, but there are some wishes that just can’t be granted by a shopping center. For instance, most centers probably wouldn’t try to grant the underlying wish of someone who was looking for a wedding ring.

It’s just not practical for a shopping center to propose marriage.

But The Plaza in Palmerston North was particularly dedicated to its #WinYourWish Christmas campaign. The center was granting $25,000 in wishes, and it wasn’t about to give up on the chance to play matchmaker as part of that.

Jess Till, Marketing Manager at The Plaza, called Scott Marsden late last week, and told him that his girlfriend, Ann-Marae Dudley, had wished for a wedding ring and was one of the lucky winners of the contest. After realizing it was not, in fact, a joke, Marsden warmed up to the idea.

He joined Till at the center to pick out a ring, and then they went to work planning the big moment. They brought both Dudley and Marsden’s employers in on the surprise so the two could slip away from work. Center staff set up a nice red carpet leading up to the contest display with all the winners’ presents. One was a man-sized box set up next to a ring box on a pedestal. Marsden would pop out of the box, present the ring, and hopefully win his lady-love’s hand in the process.

The excitement in the lead-up was palpable. Said Till, at the time, “We’re trying to make it as special as we can for them both. Everyone involved is looking forward to seeing how this surprise plays out: I can’t imagine how Scott’s feeling right now – even I am nervous!”

Fortunately, it all went off perfectly. Marsden proposed, Dudley accepted (since it was her wish in the first place, that was a pretty safe bet), and onlookers were thrilled for the happy couple. Here’s hoping this holiday surprise is just the start of many wonderful days ahead for the two.

Photo: Ann-Maree Dudley and Scott Marsden. Photo by Bernadette Peters Photography

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Dayton Mall Has a Big Heart

1218bigheartThis holiday season, Dayton Mall is collecting donations for Hannah’s Treasure Chest, an organization that provides clothes, furniture and toys for children in need. In an effort to appeal to the big hearts of its shoppers, the center put together a big heart of its own.

The 10-foot tall Big Heart sculpture is an ever-evolving piece of charitable art. For a $5 donation, shoppers can purchase a padlock. They can then write a message of love on the lock—for another, for the children, for the season—and affix it to the heart.

Those that participate are also entered to win a $1,000 center gift card.

The center unveiled the statue late in November, with live holiday music and big-hearted children’s activities. Shoppers who brought a new pair of gym shoes to donate to the cause received a $10 center gift card.

Since then, the center has taken a few other opportunities to raise funds or gift donations for Hannah’s Treasure Chest. Shoppers that brought a new plush animal to donate on Saturday the 6th had the chance to take part in Dayton’s Great Teddy Bear Toss. Dropping the plush from the center’s upper level onto holiday-themed targets below would net shoppers gift cards to center retailers. And on the 13th, shoppers could bring new packages of children’s underwear for Holiday UnderWHERE? to participate in a holiday game show.

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JCPenney Gives the Gift of Giving

Brands have learned the viral power of giving—WestJet, Air Canada, TD Bank and more have brought in the views by giving people something special.

JCPenney did something similar for a holiday video, giving shoppers something for free and making their holidays a little bit brighter. But the brand didn’t even keep the joy of giving for itself: it gave that to shoppers, too.

Store representatives didn’t look for someone to surprise with a gift. Rather, they found shoppers to do that for them. The shoppers that participated would roam the store until they found someone they wanted to surprise, and then they would buy them one perfect gift—a jacket, a sofa, even wedding jewellery. JCPenney picked up the tab.

So this video has it all: the joy of giving, the joy of receiving, and more than a couple tear-jerking moments.

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Woodlands Mall Makes Thursdays Merrier

1218merrierHere at Shopping Center Weekly, we’re already pretty fond of Thursdays. Shoppers at The Woodlands Mall, Mayfair Mall and Alderwood Mall have also been enjoying that particular day of the week this month with Merrier Thursdays.

It’s an idea that percolated up from within General Growth Properties, and has now made its way to the malls thanks to the energy and iniative of employees at all levels of the company. The goal is to make Thursday nights in December an all-fun, no-stress experience that’s bright, festive and engaging.

It’s an uphill battle—Christmas shopping can be stressful at the best of times, after all—but the centers are doing their level best. A Happiness patrol roams the mall over the course of the evening, treating guests to small gifts and bits of merriment. If your holiday enthusiasm is waning, it sure would be nice to be surprised with a bottle of water, a refreshing mint, or a gift card.

Retailers are also on board, rolling out fun giveaways, discounts and party atmospheres for Thursday evenings. Music performances also keep the fun going, from publicized marquee acts to smaller, intimate performances in quiet corners.

And for those shoppers stressed out about finding the perfect, personalized gift for a special person, the centers are bringing in a little help in the form of a trio of poets. Shoppers can give those poets a few of that special someone’s good points, and in return they receive a custom verse, printed on parchment and placed in a decorative envelope.

“The feedback from our three Merrier Thursdays centers is already very positive. Signs are in place inviting the public to come and join the fun. The newspapers and blogs are filled with stories and postings about the event. And, the retailers and restaurants are whole heartedly embracing Merrier Thursdays, designing ways to participate and further enhance the event,” says Johnna Van Deurzen, GGP Director, Events Management. “Merrier Thursdays is designed to build retailer and restaurant sales. We are really looking forward to our shopper’s reactions to the unexpected fun.”

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