Fall 2008
How can retailers boost sales every winter holiday season?

How can retailers boost sales every winter holiday season? It’s make or break with the winter holidays. Are you prepared? Here are some tips to always make the season work for you.

Trip Van Roden of Wellspring

Trip Van Roden, President of Wellspring


Work with reliable vendors
It is easy to know if you like a product, but does the vendor have the processes to help you make money? Ordering products that do not get shipped or ship late in the season does nothing but tie up your planned inventory dollars. If you are looking at a prototype at a gift show, how do you know what the final product will look like, and when it will ship? Ask vendors, ‘What is your on-time ship rate percentage’? Ask ‘What percent of your orders are shipped complete’? Put cancel dates on your orders, so they are not shipped too late in the season. Ask about displays and POP material to help sell the product.

Use the Internet
Travel is getting more and more expensive. Do your planning online, so you can maximize your time at shows. Look at vendors and sales representatives’ web sites to see what is new. Placing orders online with many vendor and sales representative sites, gives you automatic confirmation and tracking numbers. Online ordering frequently offers you the ability to view your past orders.

Sell stories, not products
Chances are consumers can buy any product you have from a number of retailers, at prices both lower and higher than your prices. Your story, however, is exclusive to you! How you merchandise your store, how you provide customer service, how you tell stories about the products you sell, is only available in your store. Great product alone cannot produce sustainable success—adding your own ‘special sauce’ will create uniqueness for consumers. The [store] Ten Thousand Villages is an example of excellent story telling.

Gail Markert of Markert Group Consulting

Gail Markert of Markert Group Consulting


Plan ahead
With November and December being the highest volume months of the year, it makes sense to strategically plan your sales promotion activities for this time window. Whether it’s an open house, advertising, coupons or a special event, map it all out in detail. A well thought-out plan, including a sales estimate of each activity, gives you greater visibility and control over your sales results and returns.

Promote your plan
Promote your activities. Customers have to know you have an offer, in order to take advantage of it. If you have an open house, determine exactly when and how you will begin to promote the dates. Options include in-store signage, bag stuffers a few weeks prior, email or written invitations, radio spots and print advertising. To get the most from your efforts, let people know about your promotions.

Respond quickly
Even great lines can have a few slow sellers. It could be a candle fragrance that sells slower than the rest or the least popular color in a range. Identify these items promptly and reduce the price. These selected “pre-season” markdowns attract customers to the group and boost sales of an otherwise slow mover. This strategy allows you take advantage of the increased holiday traffic as well as to avoid a deeper markdown later.

Rosanne Brown of Venice Stationers

Rosanne Brown of Venice Stationers
Venice, FL

Customers may grumble that you are rushing the holiday,
but you can’t sell product that’s in the backroom. We begin building a Christmas/Holiday section in the rear of the store in early June with the display of our regional boxed store in early June with the display of our regional boxed Christmas cards and follow with seasonal flags when they arrive in July. Around Labor Day, we will begin adding traditional boxed Christmas cards, paper products, gift wrap and invitations as well as some “stocking stuffer” novelty items. We will also integrate Christmas/Holiday products within other categories, such as adding holiday fragrances, into our candle display and pocket tissues in our everyday spinner.

Move it around In October. We will begin moving holiday by setting vignettes throughout the store and integrating Christmas/Holiday product into more of our everyday categories. After Thanksgiving, the store will be totally themed for Christmas and holiday parties. In different locations the product will look different, so it keeps a fresh look even if the product has been in the store for months.

Keep it interesting and tweak those displays as product sells out. Just like we do with everyday product throughout the year, it is important to keep the holiday displays looking full and eye-catching.  If something isn’t selling move it.  If inventory is running low, add other product to fill in. Cross-merchandise and present ideas on how to use the product, to encourage multiple sales. This plan works for our store. We have some advantages—space, tourist traffic, seasonal residents who buy early because many leave to be “home” for the holidays, and regular customers who know that they have to shop early for the best selection. The fourth way in determining a holiday sales strategy: listen to your customers!

Marc Rice of Fox Premier Sales

Marc Rice of Fox Premier Sales


Today’s times are uncertain, and people are stressed.
Provide a comforting environment that will draw customers to your store. It could be as simple as comfortable chairs where people can take a break, or maybe a massage therapist performing free massages for the weary. Perhaps a holiday open house, complete with Christmas cookies, could draw customers to your door. The comfort factor can also play a part in what gifts you highlight and recommend to customers. Provide low-cost, high-value services.

Free gift wrapping and personal attention can help convince customers to shop with you versus another company. Offering shipping can help customers get presents to faraway loved ones with a minimum of fuss, and it doesn’t have to be free. Display tables can offer gift suggestions, and gift registries can let people make their Christmas wishes known to family and friends. Both methods help shoppers and increase your sales. Your store could even offer special shopping nights to help customers choose presents for their spouses.

Provide outstanding service
You have heard it before but good old-fashioned customer assistance can help set you apart from competitors and make certain that shoppers patronize you rather than somebody else. Make it easy and enjoyable for your shoppers to do business with you.

The Gift and Home Trade Association is the gift and home industry’s professional trade association, formed to help vendors, sales agencies, industry affiliates and retailers work together to improve the industry. It hosts an annual conference for vendors and sales agencies, and its eight-member Retailer Advisory Board supports independent gift and home retailers through regular seminars at industry trade shows. or more information about the GHTA, call 877.600.4872, email info@ghta.net, or visit www.giftandhome.org.

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