Festive lighting displays, most commonly associated with Christmas in the UK, can help to make a visit to the town or city centre an essential part of the seasonal diary. In the winter, when the days are short and nights are long, the eight weeks prior to Christmas represent an important proportion of retail turnover and the shops need support to make the most of this critical time. Most towns and cities now hold Festive Lights Switch-on events to launch the shopping season and attract footfall.
In our multi-cultural society it is important to ensure that your festive lighting represents the whole community. Involve local groups to agree a theme or colour scheme so that businesses planning their own displays add to the overall result. Diwali celebrations and other religious and cultural festivals can also be used to dress the town centre and bring the community together.
Many towns run Christmas window display competitions to encourage shops to make a big effort. The winner will generally get a certificate, a photo in the local press and a donated prize like a big box of chocolates that the staff can share.
Providing fabulous festive lighting will need a strong local partnership at its core to make sure various safety concerns are met. Remember, someone will have to purchase the fixtures; the mounting, dismounting, maintenance and storage of the fixtures requires professional personnel, equipment, and premises, while every lamp column, bracket and power point must be inspected and tested once a year. Some local authorities will carry out the inspections as part of wider work they may be doing, so start talking to them in the spring before they plan their summer work programme. And remember to check the life expectancy of your lights, as at most this will be ten years although likely they will need to be replaced long before this period elapses.
Living Christmas Trees are becoming more popular and can save money in the long run. Lights can be professionally installed under the guidance of the Forestry Commission and left up for five years, then re-installed with fresh ties for a further five years. Having done this you may want to switch them on throughout the winter to bring a bit of visual impact to the town centre, but in theory they are just switched on during the run up to Christmas and New Year and left off for the rest of the year.
In historic market towns there are often privately run schemes where each participating shop has a small real Christmas tree filled with fairy lights in a wall mounted bracket, usually at fascia or first floor level. Where a whole row or cluster of businesses participate and there is a pre-agreed colour scheme these can be very effective and fairly inexpensive. Typically a local entrepreneur will provide and mount the bracket for a one off cost the first year if the shop signs up to have a tree each year for three years. The lights belong to the business who also need an appropriate plug in point to power the tree lights off their own system. The entrepreneur provides local employment, earns a margin on the trees, and establishes valuable business relationships.