Summer 2008
How do you host a successful in-store event during the holidays?

How do you host a successful in-store event during the holidays? What are some event ideas that can draw traffic? You probably kick off the holiday retail season with a bang. Here are some ideas to make holiday events profitable and fun.

Gail Markert of Markert Group Consulting


Gail Markert of Markert Group Consulting
615.292.7819

MarkertGroupConsulting.com

Make it an occasion. If they don’t attend, they can’t spend!

Think big. Plan to include discounts, giveaways, drawings, free gift wrap, music, food and drink. The longer customers stay in your store the more they are likely to spend. Create a fun, friendly environment with activities paced throughout the event to maintain customer interest.

Request help. Ask key suppliers and reps for tips on maximizing sales of their line. Enlist their help to provide free or discounted products for the promotion. This may be an actual product for a drawing, promotional items like logo pens or note pads to stuff in bags, small samples of hand lotion or attendance by key reps during the open house to promote the line to customers.

Get the word out. Use a variety of methods to promote your event. Invite your current customers from your mail and email lists; offer a discount when they bring in the invitation. Also, target groups large and small: invite your customers to bring their book club, church group, garden club, girlfriends or coworkers for a social shopping experience. Advertise in the local press and use bag stuffers a few weeks prior to promote the event.

For the record. Keep a business diary of the event. Detail the plans prior to, during and any follow up after the event. Refer to this annually, noting what worked and what didn’t and use it to improve your event each year.

Debbie Dusenberry of Curious Sofa


Debbie Dusenberry of Curious Sofa
913.432.8969

CuriousSofa.com

Our most successful open house happens each November when we invite only our VIP customers to a special evening event. These are people we know by name, who frequent the store often and/or have spent an ample dollar amount throughout the year. This finite list receives a beautiful, hand addressed VIP invitation for a party to be held the night, before opening to the general public. We spend the extra money to cater the event, have live music and even hire a Victorian Santa. The invitation also includes a 10% discount for that evening only. This makes our customers feel very special not only to be on the elite list but also to get a sneak peek before anyone else. It works every time (weather permitting) and pays off throughout the year.

Patti Harbin of In-Courage


Patti Harbin of In-Courage
San Antonio, TX
GIFT SHOP Advisory board member

I think that the key to a successful, low-budget holiday event is “shared cost.” The true success of the event though depends on whom you choose to share the cost with; you do not want to compete for the same dollar.

Last Christmas, we did something that was really successful. There is a “Home and Garden” show here in San Antonio that airs every Saturday. We were interested in them coming out and doing a live-feed from our shopping center. We were going to split the cost of it with the other businesses in our center and I had an idea to ask our landlord/property manager to participate in the cost. To my surprise, he offered to pay half of it (his “half” was $1700). We were thrilled. The “Home and Garden” show came and set up in our center that Saturday afternoon and did a live broadcast. It was lots of fun. They did advertising for it for two weeks prior and had each of the businesses live on the show for three minutes that day. By picking the “Home and Garden” show, we picked a non-traditional show that would bring in a different audience. These were not our typical customer base and we got a lot of new customers. 

Host a guy’s night at the store. Have women customers send in their favorite guy to the store for an evening. Having cards describing these guys’ interests will help. Launch a new men’s line and have that company underwrite it with give-a-ways.

We are bringing in a person from a local cigar company to hand roll cigars (guys love this). Great advertising for the cigar company. Sometimes men might be intimated to come to a gift store but something like this might put them at ease. Be ready to wrap gifts on the spot or have pre-packaged gifts. 

Bring in an author and have a book signing. Bring in a food book author and have her demonstrate some holiday recipes in the store. Or have her prepare the food ahead of time. We did this last year and it was a great success. A local morning show featured the author who was to later visit our store. That was free advertising for us!

Share mailings. Partner with other stores in your area to do Christmas Open House on the same day/week-end. Everyone shares in the cost of the mailing. If you do an all-day event, be sure to give out hourly door prizes. Be sure to advertise this in your mailing.

Deby Fowler of Lady Primrose


Deby Fowler of Lady Primrose
214.747.7673

LadyPrimrose.com

Hosting a profitable and successful event takes planning. Create a theme, then add a time line to execute.

Events can be done any time of year. Holiday time is a given, however, slow months give customers a reason to come to a store.

Successful themes are:
Girls or Guys Night Out. Have a gift registry set up in your store prior to event. Invite special customers to shop after hours. Serve champagne/wine and finger food. Play fun music. Have plenty of staff available.

A Night At The Movies. Luxury bath and body, lingerie, candles and home decor can be promoted using this theme. Create various movie themes that fit the occasion. “Pretty Woman,” “What Women Want,” “Scent of A Woman,” and “My Fair Lady” are a few suggestions.

Custom Engraving Event. Invite an engraver to personalize products that can be engraved. Most glass, crystal and metal surfaces can be engraved. This makes the gift more personal and a wonderful keepsake.





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