Wednesday 21 August 2019

WATCH: Take a look behind the scenes of the magical Christmas story at Dundrum Shopping Centre

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Many of us turn to - and reconnect - with our family, if we are lucky enough to do so, at Christmas time.

And it is this sense of family that helps keep the huge operation at Dundrum Shopping Centre running smoothly over the festive season.

"It's really about communication," Don Nugent told independent.ie, "we all talk every day which is very fundamental but very important."

"Every day of the year, about 15 minutes before we open where every manager on duty every head of department gathers for 5-10 minutes at the customer service desk 'what happened last night, what's coming up today, what's been happening that we need to understand'."

Sure enough, while we were interviewing Don, we had to stop filming so he could carry out this task that's considered essential to the scheme.

"Meeting together does two things; it helps communication and it gets people out of their offices. But we try to manage Dundrum really as a big department store...we're all very passionate about it.

"The only way to do this is to manage it from the floor and not the office - communication is paramount."

Don doesn't only talks the talk - on a floor walk through the main shopping store (and later on a visit to the centre's roof), he knew absolutely every staff member and greeted them by their first name.

While communication is obviously key, a huge amount of planning is involved in juggling all the baubles associated with the operation of the main shopping centre building, the Pembroke district (where all the restaurants reside) Dundrum South "where we have our big box tenants like Snow Rock and our office tenants".

"We've already begun planning for Christmas 2017," said Don, explaining exactly how much energy and time investment that goes into what visitors simply see as the beautiful Christmas scenes that greet us.

"We have about 5,500 people working in Dundrum; over Christmas, that number can go up to about 6,500 with seasonal staff.

"Dundrum is a town, it performs like a town...having all of that mix of retail and leisure, education and media - a lot goes on behind the scenes."

Nonetheless, the winter wonderland that the centre has been transformed into is something that intrigues us. 

"What we try to do with our festive theme every year is to have a story behind it and we enhance it each year," said Don Nugent.

"After a trip to a Christmas market in Frankfurt, we decided we wanted a story behind Dundrum and we engaged author Oisin McCann and we began to evolve the sketches.

"We just wanted to do something different and we developed this story about the Drift family in Dundrum. The story was written by Oisin McCann and illustrated by him."

The book - from which the four festive family scenes feature in the sopping centre - is selling for €2 (a voluntary contribution) in the store, €1 of which goes to the ISPCC.

Realising a dream of creating an experiential piece, two scenes feature at floor level in the centre and two are suspended features. But the book holds the magic part.

"The four pages within the book that refer to those particular scenes are layered with virtual reality," said Don.

"When the app is downloaded and hovered over the Zappar app, the page comes to life. Watching children’s faces when that happens is wonderful."   

The success of the Christmas period at Dundrum is measured by footfall counters, in place since the centre opened, that pick up the numbers of people who visit the scheme.

"That sort of information is very important as we can compare it to the history of previous years such as the last year that Christmas fell on a Sunday in 2011," said Don.

But it's not just the business wins that make Don smile - happy memories at Dundrum include the birth of a baby girl on Christmas Eve in 2010.

"The baby being born overnight on December 23/24 was one of the best memories for me," he said.

"A lady went into labour – our security supervisor Denis helped deliver that baby that night and she was taken off to St Vincent’s Hospital. The mother still comes and shops here with her now 6-year old. That’s one we remember fondly."

And it's easy to forget sometimes in the shopping madness that the retail staff have their own Christmas to prep for. As Don said, "People need to see both sides of the story".

"Back when I worked in Switzers, a man was in the shop looking for a bottle of perfume for his wife which i think was £50 at the time. He said 'No, it’s too expensive, so he was shown a smaller bottle which was about £30 and he said no I need to look at something cheaper and the staff member gave him a mirror.

"He didn’t find that funny and when he came to me, I said to him that it was Christmas and I was sure she didn’t mean any harm by it. I think he saw the funny side in the end."

Online Editors

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