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Behind the Festive Magic 🌠

Ever wondered who is behind all of our festive magic at Leekes? Meet Charlotte Illsley our fantastic Christmas Buyer. Here you can find out a little more about the role and Charlottes favourite decorations this year! 

charl sofa done

When did you buy in this year’s range and how did you decide what to buy?


Every year we tend to buy the Leekes Christmas range the first week after we get back from the Christmas break so just after celebrating the new year. Although this is 11 months in advance it is a great time to buy in the new seasonal ranges as Christmas is still so fresh in the mind.


Myself and the Buying Controller fly out to Dusseldorf and visit two showrooms while we are out there, we spend a few days collating all of the product we feel fits each theme and because the showrooms are so vast we sometimes need more than a day in each. One showroom is over 9,800 m2 which usually covers 10 or so themes and we then decide which we feel fits our customer profile best and how we will adapt these themes. We buy anything from artificial trees, wreaths and garlands, to artificial snow, hanging decs and tree toppers and even a few singing light up reindeer!


We pull together trend inspiration before we go so we have a general idea of what we are looking for beforehand, we work from bestsellers reports ensuring we re-buy product we know works well all the meanwhile also looking out for brand new and contemporary product that we haven’t seen anywhere else in the marketplace.


When leaving the showrooms in Germany this year, it was pouring with snow which most definitely added to the Christmas spirit! When we get back to Leekes head office we then pull together imagery of all the product we have scanned and pull these into the relevant themes ensuring we are are buying enough of each colour. It is also important to colour match different products as we buy from different suppliers - I have learnt that there are many, many shades of Blush Pink!

inally once we are happy with our product selection we decide on titles for our themes and plan how these will be displayed in stores, the product generally then begins to arrive mid July with plenty of time for our stores to prep before the festive season begins.

tree showroom


What is your favourite trend of 2019?


My favourite Christmas trend this year is our ‘Under The Sea’ theme which is inspired by all things oceanic. We saw this trend begin to peep through last year in fashion references with Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel Paris show where he presented a compact evening bag in the shape of an ivory scallop shell, along with Stella McCartney who sent a Golden mussel down the runway. This kicked off the ‘Sea Life’ craze which has seen many retailers make this a main theme for Christmas 2019.


I have always loved Christmas decs that don’t follow tradition and this is certainly a Christmas trend with a difference. Think Blue hues and dusty coral Pinks mixed with shimmering silvers for an underwater glow. Shell like textures and aquatic creatures define this modernized theme adorned with intricately beaded Jellyfish, Clams with an opalescent finish, mini Orca Whales in pastel shades and a mermaid or two to complete the look.


What tips would you give people to help them achieve a perfectly decorated tree?


I always advise the most important first step of decorating your Christmas tree is fluffing out the tree (whether you have a real or artificial tree) as this can really make all the difference. It is really important to spread the branches and manipulate them to what overall look you want to achieve and ideally show no gaps.



I always then suggest adding lights as the next step as at this stage you can clearly see where these need to be placed and can separate accordingly and proportionately. It is important to add lighting to your tree to illuminate your hanging decorations and really bring your tree to life.


Next is always my favourite part….hanging your decs! If you have a chosen colour theme always try to spread these evenly across your tree, if not then the choice is yours and you can put on a festive playlist and enjoy the best part, not forgetting to top your tree to complete the look.


Finally if you have an artificial tree, don’t forget Scenticles or Fragranstix as the Christmas smell makes all the difference!



How would you as a Christmas buyer get your home ready for the festive season?


Growing up it was always a tradition in our house to be given a new hanging decoration by our parents each year throughout our childhood with the intention of then passing these over when we left the family home and had our very first Christmas in our own house. Therefore each year I adorn my tree with hanging decs that have been collected over the years, each with a different sentimental value.


I also buy a collection of new decs every year (mainly because I just can’t resist) but also because I like to keep my festive decor refreshed and up to date. Most people think it is important to stick to a theme but I love that my tree is entirely unique and doesn’t follow any particular trend, it is an eclectic mix of old and new, traditional and contemporary featuring both trend-led and nostalgic pieces.



My tree includes a beaded pomegranate to represent the table settings on my wedding day, a wooden house with a Red door to represent my first home and an embellished Gold bunny to represent my pet rabbit, Russell. I even have a wooden soldier that is over 40 years old as it was passed down from my grandmothers tree which is carefully wrapped and unwrapped year after year.


Why Leekes for Christmas?


Leekes is the ideal place to do your Christmas shopping, whether it’s to decorate your home over the festive period or to find stocking fillers and gift ideas for friends and family, Leekes has a vast range covering everything you need for the season, all under one roof.


Featuring an assortment of product categories including a wide selection of gifts, home accessories, lighting and soft furnishings, Leekes offers everything you need to transform your home whether it be a traditional or contemporary look you wish to achieve. Choose from competitively priced brand-led product to unique pieces from our very own Casa brand.


The family run business also offers free parking at all stores with the added luxury of avoiding the hustle and bustle of a city centre with an out of town shopping experience. Stop for lunch at one of our in-store restaurants or re-charge your batteries with coffee and cake.


And don’t forget to visit Santa in one of our grotto’s throughout December!


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