THE SHOPPING CHANNEL: “Liberty of London,” the three-part British TV documentary series that looks at the drama and comedy behind the scenes and on the shop floor of the famed London department store, was the highest-rated show on the U.K.’s Channel 4 on Dec. 2, the day it made its debut, attracting 2.1 million viewers. Meanwhile the show’s final episode, which aired earlier this week, attracted 2 million viewers.
The series follows the flurry of activity at Liberty in the run-up to this year’s Christmas trading period, charting the buyers’ scramble to fill the store’s Christmas shop with enough glittery baubles, stockings and Christmas crackers to meet customer demand, and the meticulous planning involved in unveiling the holiday windows.
This story first appeared in the December 20, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Ed Burstell, Liberty’s managing director, has a starring role in the show: He delivers some sharp one-liners to people including Louis Matthewman, his assistant and team coordinator, and actor Richard E. Grant, who has worked with Liberty to create his own fragrance, called Jack. “To me, it’s a little tomato,” says the straight-shooting Burstell of Jack’s bright red packaging.
Publishing mogul Felix Dennis, one of the store’s 50 top spenders who refers to Liberty as “my corner shop,” features in the show, as does the cross-dressing sculptor Grayson Perry, who sources his fabrics there. Alexa Chung and Manolo Blahnik also have cameo roles.
“We could have made a 20-part series about this place and its chocolate box of characters,” said Emma Loach, executive producer of the show. “Liberty is very much part of our national heritage, one of those institutions that we know so well, but how well do we really know it?” She told press following a screening of a rough-cut episode that all editorial control rested with Channel 4.
Kate Brindley, Liberty’s head of marketing and communications and a frequent presence in the series’ three episodes, said that the store has seen a spike in footfall in reaction to the show. Brindley noted that footfall was up 60 percent in the first two weeks of December, compared to the same period last year. She added that Liberty has invested a further 100,000 pounds, or $163,000, of stock to its Christmas shop to meet customer demand.
“You realize how huge a television audience is — there’s been such a recognition of the [staff] that appeared in the show. People are being stopped in the street and in restaurants,” said Brindley.
DCD Rights, which has acquired the worldwide distribution rights to the series, said that the show has been sold to Australia’s Foxtel network and to NRK in Norway. The series was created by Rise USA, a London and Los Angeles-based production company whose past shows include “Inside Claridge’s,” a look at the storied London hotel.