who is Littlewoods?
Littlewoods Fashion Company has an 80 year British heritage and in 2018 created a media attention-grabbing Christmas Television advert styled on the hit movie The Greatest Showman. Littlewoods is now part of the Shop Direct and Very Group – the UK’s largest integrated digital retailer which is also the home of Very- one the biggest and fastest growing retail brands with annual sales of over £1.26 billion. When the senior creative manager got in touch to ask for a bespoke event for their end of year review we knew we had a fantastic opportunity to create something really special.
Our creative director took a visit to the Shop Direct Headquarters in Speke, Liverpool to meet the events team and discuss their ideas. The company was huge, based in an old air hanger and with amazing style features. The clients wanted something spectacular, interactive and heavily based on their advert for Littlewoods as the primary purpose of the event was to review the company’s annual data.
Stage One: The BRIEF
The event was auto take place in a space called ‘The Cube’ – a huge, almost empty, square box shaped venue with modern features. It was almost a blank canvas and absolutely enormous! It was then that we realised we had the opportunity to go big!
In terms of limitations the client was very open minded, they weren’t sure specifically what they wanted- but also wanted a bit of everything; walkabout entertainment, stage performances, interactive activities and decorations. Taking inspiration from The Greatest Showman we suggested we transform The Cube into ‘the Littlewoods Circus’ – a multi sensory event with fresh popcorn and candy floss filling the air, a jam packed entertainment schedule and plenty of have-a-go opportunities.
After The Cube had been measured and the tech possibilities worked out we created a sketch layout of how we envisioned the whole event. The Cube had excellent lighting and projection capabilities so we decided to use these to cast video sections of the advert and pre-recorded video sequences onto the walls as the guests entered and use the amazing lighting to turn the venue completely purple matching the Littlewoods brand colour.
The client came back to us with a little more information- their CEO was called Sam and they wanted to create some large posters in the style of The Greatest Showman. Posters advertising “Showman Sam’s Circus” were hung down the corridors leading guests towards the main room. They also wanted to have a small costume competition with the heads of department and use their likeness in posters of their circus characters. This was a great fun element and personal touch, their in-house production team wanted to take care of this so we made sure we styled everything in keeping with their theme.
The plan was to have the guests enter into a purple carnival bustling with activity, watch a short stage performance then the CEO be welcomed onto the stage. After a 15 minute presentation another stage performance would mark the end of the review and the guests would have the remaining thirty minutes to enjoy the circus experience. This would then be repeated for the other half of the company.
STAGE TWO: Props and Decoration
Due to the enormous size of The Cube even the largest of props looked slightly lost. So we had to create clever visuals. We styled a gigantic balloon arch, with over 400 purple and white balloons, creating an archway entrance.
Smoke machines lined the room and filled the upper section with an ambient haze which looked beautiful through the shining spotlights aimed at the square stage we placed in the centre. This created the feeling on working the stage in the centre of the audience like a real circus big top. The corners of the stage were marked with half barrels painted in vintage circus style and not only looked great but proved very practical for the performers to pose on and frame the speakers on the stage. Our carousel horses flanked the sides of the venue and we hand made endless fabric triangle bunting to string across the glass windows and around the venue.
Stage Three: Costumes and Performers
The stage spots were to mark the beginning and end of the review and only needed to be short, high energy bursts of unusual entertainment so we recommended one of our snake charmers kicked things off and one of our aerialist closed the stage with an aerial hoop routine.
Our old fashioned styled popcorn vendor and larger than life candy floss girl were given upgrades on their candy carts with new tables, tablecloths and parasols coloured themed to fit them both individually. They also had new custom menus themed after The Greatest Showman with treats such as “the Ringmaster”; a red and white double candy floss- bold cherry flavoured on the outside with a smooth Baileys flavoured centre, and “the Bearded lady” styled in black and red echoing her signature colours in the film- a cola and grape flavour combo to tickle the tastebuds.
For the interactive element of the event we installed our have-a-go tight wire with our amazing instructor, a circus workshop, hula hooping, meet and greet with our snake charmer, stilt walkers and a roaming juggler.
Since the theme was circus we stayed all our costumes in classic carnival style bold stripes, red, black, white and gold, trimmed jackets with gold buttons and plenty of top hats.
STAGE four: Transforming the Venue
This was actually a huge task despite the blank canvas of the venue, the balloon arch has to be constructed, tight wire built and aerial hoop erected and positioned, popcorn and candy floss machines set up and the first batches made. The Showman Sam posters and character posters were hung and we met the department heads who had dressed up as circus classics such as the bearded lady, tattooed man and the strongman. Once in costume, they were happy to get involved and join in with welcoming guests into the venue.
We used our red carpet and gold barriers to make a glamorous walkaway entrance for our guests so they got a real buzz of excitement before going into the usually plain conference room.
The performers were ready and the client was very excited to begin the event.
Stage FIVE: Bring in the Guests!
Littlewoods had paid for the rights to use the reimagined Greatest Showman song “The greatest show” by Panic at the Disco so this was the sounds of the entrance and our snake charmer danced with her gigantic python whilst the guests entered the huge venue. They were greeted and ushered in by our stilt walking team and quickly filled the large room. The ‘stage in the round’ worked perfectly and allowed everyone to see the stage. There were literally hundreds of employees! After her set the snake charmer and ringmistress welcomed the CEO onto the stage and the review began.
Then the real fun started, the aerialist took to her hoop with a super energetic, action packed routine and the party began. The candy floss proved hugely popular. “The Ringmaster” flavour was the favourite and everybody wanted to try the circus workshop, there were some great bonding moments when colleagues encouraged each other across the tightrope and as always the snake stole the show with everyone wanting to meet her and get photos.
After an hour we had a quick reset and went for an identical round two with the second half of the employees! They were a fun team and we had a great time providing their end of year review entertainment.
“Thank you so much, you created an amazing event for us and delivered far beyond our expectations. Feedback from the staff has been amazing- I doubt anyone will forget this Christmas review for a long time!”
– Mark Stocker
Senior Creative Manager, Shop Direct group
Since this event we have added even more to our props package line up including wavy Fun House Mirrors and a Carnival High Striker.
To enquire about our Greatest Showman package please use our Contact page, or if you have your own ideas in mind and would like to discuss a custom package created just for you – drop us a message.