Custom sculpted golden dogs and hundreds of red lanterns provide the backdrop for the Lunar New Year celebrations at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre.
With the focus on the Year of the Dog, the shopping centre’s dramatic gold and red décor sets the stage for celebrations and events where everyone can join in the fun, says Oakridge Centre’s general manager Susan Nicol.
Oakridge partners with the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association, an organization that focuses on arts and cultural projects, to stage the annual celebration.
“We engage all parts of our community with different celebrations throughout the year. It’s about having this area where people can come and have fun,” she says. “We want to be inclusive. That’s the wonderful thing about Canada: it’s an inclusive society and we want to reflect that. It’s the most important traditional holiday for the Asian community, but you don’t have to be Asian to enjoy it. It’s a fun event for us to organize and it’s fun for the people visiting the mall.”
In the West Galleria, distinctive arches and 880 red lanterns are a focal point. People can write a blessing and place it in the lantern (an appointment is necessary), which will then be returned to display, Nicol says. For those who want to make their own lantern, the Family Day holiday on Feb. 12 provided the opportunity. As part of the shopping centre’s celebrations, social craft stations were set up to make traditional and themed crafts.
In the East Galleria, the 10 golden dogs in different poses and each about three and half feet long and two and half feet tall, draw attention to the Year of the Dog theme. Nearby mannequins showcasing the latest fashion trends add to the festive ambience.
But these aren’t the only dogs on display in the 574,000-square-foot shopping centre.
“We have 100 [figurines] of black and white dogs that retailers are incorporating in their window displays. People can adopt the dogs and the adoption fee will go to an animal charity,” Nicol says.
On Saturday, the always-impressive lion dance will be the showstopper.
“The lion dance always draws a big crowd,” says Kriston Dean, Purdys Chocolatier’s vice-president of chocolate merchandising and marketing. “Purdys’ Oakridge shop participates by hanging lettuce and a red lai see pack in the shop doorway – the lion grabs the lettuce and throws it into the crowd, giving good fortune to whomever catches it.”
Visitors to Oakridge will enjoy seeing the stores embrace the theme in their décor.
“The décor and visual inspiration in our shops is a key component of our Lunar New Year setup,” says Dean, adding that “Lunar New Year is such a beautiful celebration with thoughts of good fortune and family”.
“Our packaging is inspired by the traditional festivities and celebrations of the season, so we incorporate a lot of red (to bring good fortune) along with pops of gold. We create a custom-designed animal medallion each year, which is available in solid milk or dark chocolate, and we have a lot of other gifting options for our customers, such as chocolate assortment boxes, lai see packs and chocolate-covered fortune cookies,” Dean says.
Retail analyst Craig Patterson says Oakridge is well positioned to host community celebrations like Lunar New Year.
“Shopping malls are increasingly becoming like town centres – places for the community to gather. The retail stores, along with common areas, provide a space where people can visit and have an experience. They are becoming community gathering places where you can go with family and friends and have a good time,” he says.
Patterson, a research and special projects consultant with the Retail Council of Canada, says the organization’s 2017 report, which ranks Canadian malls on metrics, including annual productivity, size and annual visitors, found that Oakridge, with its more than eight million visitors a year, is one of the country’s top performing malls in terms of annual sales per square foot.
“In terms of annual sales per square foot in Canada, Vancouver’s Oakridge is second only to Yorkdale in Toronto,” he says. “I expect the high-end retailers in Oakridge, like Harry Rosen, Michael Kors and Coach to pull out all the stops for the Lunar New Year.”
Jewelry stores like Tiffany & Co. and Montecristo can also expect to do well, Patterson adds.
“Handbags, jewelry and fragrance are all great gifts – you don’t have to try them on.”
The Lunar New Year is an important event for Swarovski, says the company’s managing director Aurelie Pepion.
Swarovski has always celebrated Lunar New Year through the brand’s Asian Symbols Collection, she says, noting that the company supports a range of cultural celebrations.
Swarovski has specifically designed pieces to celebrate the Year of the Dog, such as the blue crystal Zodiac Loyal Dog and the Chinese Zodiac Dog (a piece created to represent loyalty and honesty), Pepion says.
As part of its Lunar New Year festivities, Swarovski has celebratory window displays and will also be highlighting its Love collection.
The dog is the 11th animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac and as Oakridge Centre welcomes visitors to enjoy the displays and events culminating in the lion dance, no doubt the management team is already thinking about 2019 and how it will facilitate community celebrations for the Year of the Pig.