Business

UK department store John Lewis unveils Christmas commercial as pressure mounts on retailers

Posted November 13, 2020 6:21 a.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2020 6:43 a.m. EST

— British department store chain John Lewis has released its much-anticipated 2020 Christmas TV commercial — an uplifting tale of kindness — during a crucial sales period for the retailer.

The two-minute ad, which is also for the company's supermarket arm, Waitrose, is inspired by the kindness shown by the British public to one another throughout the pandemic and aims to encourage viewers to "give a little love" to others, the company said in a press release.

UK retailers face a daunting holiday season, with restrictions introduced to tackle a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases expected to weigh on consumer spending and cause the economy to shrink over the final three months of 2020.

The restrictions have forced John Lewis has been forced to close its department stores in England for a second time this year, but Waitrose locations remain open and the company's delivery trucks are on the road. Better than expected holiday sales could help salvage a trying year for the business.

John Lewis reported in September that it lost £635 million ($835 million) over the first half of this year. "The outlook for the second half is clearly uncertain given the broader macroeconomy," the company said in its results statement. "Christmas trade is also particularly important to profits in John Lewis."

The launch of the retailer's holiday ad has become a festive fixture in the United Kingdom, and the content of the campaign is always subject to much speculation.

This year's commercial, released online Friday, tells the story of a connected "chain of giving" — beginning with a girl who helps a boy to get his football down from a tree and ending with a woman helping that same girl to fix her glasses while traveling together on a bus.

The ad is set to a song titled "A Little Love," by the Brit Award-winning soul singer Celeste, and features animation, claymation and CGI. It involves the work of eight different artists, including French animator Sylvain Chomet — director of the Oscar-nominated "The Triplets of Belleville" — and Chris Hopewell, who has created music videos for the bands Radiohead and Franz Ferdinand.

John Lewis said it was designed to show how "acts of kindness, large and small, can multiply and positively impact the world in which we live as we pass them on to others."

As part of the campaign, the retailer also aims to raise funds for the food poverty and family charities FareShare and Home-Start.

"We were humbled by the kindness shown by the British public during the pandemic. We want this campaign to be uplifting and to inspire everyone to give some kindness in their own way this Christmas, especially to those who need it most," said Pippa Wicks, executive director of John Lewis.

"The pandemic has proved that it's our small acts of love and kindness, particularly in challenging times, that captures what it is to be human; and when one small act of kindness multiplies it can have a lasting impact."

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