(6 Aug 2018) LEADIN:
Despite the heatwave hitting Britain, one luxury London store is already decking the halls with Christmas cheer.
Trees, baubles and Santa sacks are on the shelves at Selfridges more than 140 days before December 25th, in a bid to cash in on the summer tourist trade.
It's beginning to look at lot like Christmas at Selfridges.
Visitors to its Oxford Street department store, first opened in 1909, may be surprised to encounter Christmas trees, bright, shiny baubles and nutcrackers on display ... in August.
The department store claims to be the first retailer anywhere in the world to launch its Christmas Shop, excluding any year-round speciality stores.
Selfridges Christmas and home buyer Eleanor Gregory says the store's early start to the holiday season is actually driven by demand from shoppers, particularly from abroad.
More than 500 products are on display - some have an obvious royal theme - like a Prince Harry nodding doll. There's also Big Ben shaped tree decorations and themed snow globes - even though temperatures outside are over 30 degrees Celsius.
"We have a whole mix of customers coming to buy Christmas decorations this time of year. We've got a lot of domestic customers coming to beat the rush and get their Christmas decorations, their Christmas cards early. We have a lot of overseas customers and visitors coming to take a great souvenir home. So, we have a huge mix of people." says Gregory.
Shoppers Diane and Paul Herbert from the UK city of Bristol aren't too excited.
"It made us groan. At our age, we think life goes too quick without bringing Christmas forward," laughs Diane.
London-based shopper Sydney Wiltshire is one happy shopper:
"I think it's not too early ever to shop for Christmas, I'm doing that today, anyway. So, why not? It's interesting. No one else has done it yet, I don't think, so..."
Anastasiia Shestopalova, from Ukraine, appears a little bemused. "I was a little bit surprised, but it's Britain, everything is possible," she says.
"I decided maybe it's just like a market store here. So, it's okay."
Selfridges says it plans to open the full scale, second phase of its Christmas Shop on 4 September, when the selection will grow to almost 3,800 products.
Sofie Willmott, a senior retail analyst at Global Data, says the department store's early Christmas displays are an attempt to cash in on increased visitor numbers:
"Selfridges are launching their Christmas department in the middle of summer to really capture the tourist trade," she says.
"So, tourists from both the UK and abroad come to Selfridges for that luxury product. So, by having their Christmas product offering, they can really capture spend there. And also, it creates an extra buzz around the department store, adding that destination appeal."
Willmott says that while many high street retailers have suffered due to the popularity of online retailers, such as Amazon, luxury destinations are less effected.
"Department stores like Debenhams and House of Frasier have really been affected by the choice on offer at Amazon and the great delivery offer that it has, its Amazon Prime subscription scheme," she says.
"But luxury players like Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols have been less affected because they can rely on the store experience more to draw in the shoppers."
The theme of this year's festive offerings is 'Selfridges Rocks Christmas,' featuring Elvis Presley themed nutcrackers and David Bowie shaped tree baubles.
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