Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Dear Fenwick.......

Fenwick Santa on the Rooftop tickets went on sale today. This is a magical event and a Christmas highlight for many families. Fenwick is supposed to be the gold standard of retail so you'd think it would be a match made in heaven. Wrong!

Visiting Father Christmas used to be a simple affair. You'd queue in the department store, see the main man, receive a badge/sticker and that was the job done. It was free to do this and a tradition that many families carried out year after year. They started charging to see Santa a few years ago and I honestly don't begrudge them this - they are a business with rapidly declining profits after all and like all businesses, they want to make money so I say charging for events is fine by me. I don't know how or why they get it so wrong though.

It feels like they get their approach to ticket sales wrong every year, can't seem to judge public perception and if anything it gets worse every year. This year was so bad it resulted in many people saying they are now going to boycott Fenwick. I personally wouldn't go that far, there are loads of other Santa experiences out there which are just as good (check out my guide here) but I do understand why people are upset and angry - Fenwick don't seem to do anything to help themselves either.

So I thought I'd put together a few tips for how they can improve the whole experience next time. Let me know what you think.

1 - Why so secretive? 
At least we were given a ticket release date and time this year (eventually). I've never known anything like trying to get an answer out of Fenwick. They are always so vague about what events they are running & when they are - you never know the cost in advance. Things have moved on since the simple time when you just needed to queue to see Father Christmas. Many parents work and have lots of commitments and there's a budget to think of now when it comes to planning Christmas activities. It would REALLY please your customers if you could provide more information in advance of tickets going on sale. It would also give customers the chance to browse and ask questions in advance. There was lots of confusion with customers double booking breakfast and santa on the roof as they didn't realise it was included now and many didn't know whether under 2s needed a ticket or how to obtain one. If you release this info in advance, it will create less panic and people can be prepared/informed.

2 - Email list marketing ploy 
Why did you tell customers that tickets would be on sale by 'email invitation'. This wording is very misleading and makes it sound like you have to be signed up to Fenwick's newsletter to stand any kind of a chance of getting tickets. It's pretty bad craic to mislead customers like this just for a few extra email list sign-ups.

3 - Don't release tickets earlier than you promised
Talk about breaking trust with your customers. If a 10am release time wasn't achievable, you should have just said that tickets would be available 'On the morning of 1 October' rather than break trust with thousands of customers who logged on at 10am like you'd told them to, to find most tickets had already sold out.

4 - Try releasing tickets in the evening
I am generalising a bit here, but most parents work when their children are at school. Releasing tickets in the evening would be a better time for most.

5 - Why is there nobody around to chat? 
If small businesses can manage it, I'm sure you can. It's frustrating that your social media team aren't prepped, answering questions and updating social media during the time tickets go on sale. Instead, there's just silence which isn't helpful and where a lot of rumours and confusion stems from.

6 - Eventbrite is horrendous 
Please find an alternative next year. I don't know of any other big Christmas events which are booked this way. It was SO glitchy, impossible to search or filter events and Fenwick Newcastle events were mixed in with other Fenwick store events which led to many booking the wrong place or event. Please build booking into your own website and give people the chance to browse info before they purchase. Handling everything in-house will surely give you more control too?

7 - Check your pricing 
Personally, as Fenwick's Santa has been free to visit for so many years, I think it's really important that you stay financially inclusive and offer events for all budgets. It's really disappointing to see that your two cheapest events aren't an option this year. Last year there were shorter cinema showings for £6.50 yet this year the cheapest option is £12.50. Last year you could book breakfast with santa for a reasonable price yet now the only option for breakfast is to include Santa on the Rooftop and is around £100 or more for most families. These are huge increases in your minimum prices and it kind of feels like you are a lot less financially accessible now (especially as you don't advertise prices in advance which makes it impossible for families on lower incomes to budget for). PLEASE bring back some cheaper options next year. We don't mind price rises of £1 or so but doubling prices is something else.

8 - Say Sorry 
I haven't seen a proper public apology yet (other than the Chronicle who could have just copy and pasted from some of your Social Media replies). The small apologies I have seen don't admit your mistakes, they simply fob people off by saying the event is popular. We know it's popular. We want an apology for you putting tickets on sale early/acceptance that you made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. It's how you deal with them that counts.

9 - Communicate with each other
It feels like people were given different stories about the ticket fiasco by different people and the rumour mill is in overdrive because of this.

I know, I know, it's just Santa. It's not the end of the world if you didn't get tickets BUT the fact of the matter is, all of this could have been avoided if only Fenwick were on their game.

Let's hope things are a little different next year.......

If you'd like to keep up to date with events and things to do in Newcastle, please like the Visit Newcastle Facebook page here. 

What do you think about Fenwick's Christmas events this year? Did you manage to get tickets or were you left disappointed? 


  1. Spot on, the whole thing was a complete joke, been getting worse every year.

  2. So last year was ran from in store of the Newcastle shop. Due to the restructure of fenwick stores don't have much of a say and its organised by the know it alls from down south who have never got passed north of m25. This once proud family firm has gone to the dogs and is just another high street shop with no family ties left


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