Frazzled shoppers would prefer a silent night

In-store music experts say there is a fine line between creating festive cheer and tipping frazzled Christmas shoppers – and staff – over the edge.

Just ask Coles. When it put out a call on social media recently for in-store Christmas song requests, it was inundated with advice.

"Maybe turn Rudolph off? 2 hours and counting tonight," wrote Luke Busuttil.

"Jingle Bells on repeat Saturday. Baby's First Christmas yesterday and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer today. Do you want your workers to massacre the customers?" responded another.

"We've gotta get out of this place," suggested one disgruntled shopper.

Steven Freeman from Evolved Sound which specialises in compiling in-store playlists for retailers and shopping centres, says while playing music that reflects the store's brand and demographic is important, avoiding repetition, particularly in the lead up to Christmas, is crucial.

"We find that most stores choose to incorporate Christmas music into their existing playlists rather than just playing straight carols," he says. "So we might throw in a Christmas song every two songs or every three or four songs depending on the retailer."

Angus Hayes, managing director at Mule Music which customises playlists for stores says "one Christmas song every 15 minutes" is generally a good rule of thumb when it comes to Christmas playlists.

He says the purpose of in-store music at Christmas time is to create a "feel good factor" not alienate the customer.

Mr Freeman says he advises retailers against playing just Christmas carols around the clock.

"You wouldn't do a straight carol mix because its just too full on," he says. "Having five carols on repeat can be quite annoying."

He says it is ideal to have a pool of up to 100 Christmas songs so you only hear a repeat "every day or so. It keeps repetition low which is really important."

Though he adds Christmas carols are an unavoidable occupational hazard for retail staff at this time of year.

"It's not about the staff," he says. "A lot of owners and staff think it is. But at the end of the day the customers are your main priority."

Many retailers begin planning their Christmas playlists months in advance and the savviest will ensure they not only complement the brand, but in some cases, even reflect the in-store collections.

For example, several years ago, Swedish clothing retailer H&M selected a playlist that featured classic crooners such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to promote their classic black and white tuxedo-inspired fashion collection.

Hayes says his "programming team is on a constant journey searching and listening for new (Christmas) music year round with a deadline of late November."

He says most stores will begin playing their Christmas tunes on December 1, though some start as early as mid-November.

Though some retailers choose not to play Christmas music at all.

"It's about 50/50 and generally speaking the youth-oriented brands are less inclined to adopt Christmas music into the mix," says Hayes.

Freeman says those youth brands that do play Christmas music modernise their playlists to avoid putting off shoppers. Electronic remixes of carols are particularly popular among certain retailers, he says.

"For a store with a younger more progressive demographic who would normally have a top 40 playlist or a dance playlist then you'd be having a remix of the Christmas tracks. You wouldn't change the genre just to meet the Christmas quota," he said. "It's important the Christmas tracks gel with the existing play list."

Hayes says the classics are also popular this year.

"There is a definite need towards the classics this year... artists such as Bing Crosby, Michael Buble, Beach Boys, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin and Stevie Wonder."

Among the more helpful responses Coles received from its customers on Facebook, Bing Crosby, Michael Buble, Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber's Under the Mistletoe album were among the most requested.

This year, Myer is playing its Myer Spirit Of Christmas CD across all of its stores in between its normal playlist.

A spokeswoman said the CD was played on "limited rotation (1 in 3 tracks) with our standard in-store music" to provide "variety for both team members and customers."

She said the selection was also generating high sales of the CD.

Target has chosen to play Christmas carols around the clock but ensures customers there are "several mixes on rotation so there is no repetition.”

A Target spokewoman said in-store favourite this year included "Jingle Bell Rock, It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and a hit for the tweens this year is Mistletoe by Justin Bieber."

Meanwhile, many online stores trying to recreate the Christmas shopping spirit in their virtual stores are snubbing carols altogether.

Finn Haensel, co-founder of popular fashion e-tailer, The Iconic said a recent survey of its customers found that while shoppers wanted to experience the festive spirit online, they did not want carols.

"We thought about it for a long time but the feedback we got was that shoppers found it annoying when Christmas music suddenly started playing when they were shopping online."

"The main problem is that a lot of our customers are already listening to music in the background so they find it quite annoying," he said.

"So we try to recreate it in other ways with traditional Christmas colours on the website... and Christmas wrapping services."

This story Frazzled shoppers would prefer a silent night first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.