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July 25, 2022 •
Selling Xmas: ’22 Edition
19 Tips Generate Plenty of Green in This Year’s Winter Holiday Game.
Despite pandemic, inflation and supply chain disruptions, 2021 also brought with it a very Merry Christmas. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail sales during the November-December holiday season grew 14.1% over 2020 to $886.7 billion. Both the amount spent and the growth rate are new highs, topping the previous records of $777.3 billion spent in 2020 and 8.2% growth that year.
“The numbers are clear: 2021 was an undeniably outstanding year for retail sales,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO for NRF, noted. “NRF expects further growth for 2022, and we will continue to focus on industry challenges presented by COVID-19, the supply chain, labor force issues and persistent inflation.”
To make the most of crucial fourth quarter sales and offset any challenges that may await, retailers and makers shared what worked for them in ‘21 — plus their ‘22 plans.
1. Think Color.
Shake up customers’ expectations by abandoning traditional red and green, recommended Ann Cantrell, owner, Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store. “We did a rainbow table and it was so fun and easy to merchandise product this way. We will definitely keep this going for 2022.”
2. Go Gratis.
Everyone loves free swag; in that vein, Cantrell distributed to/from gift tag sticker sheets, gratis. “They were beautiful and well received by customers,” she recalled.
3. Don’t Wait Until November.
“We opted to start selling holiday themed items and gifts in October, instead of waiting until November to do a big launch like we traditionally do,” described Jennifer Luna, owner of Paper Luxe Stationery & Gifts. “Customers were very eager to start celebrating and decorating earlier this year, so we just put out items as we received them and tried to make displays look as cohesive as possible. Our customers loved it and we will do the same timeline this year as well!”
4. Work(shop) It.
If you can, bring back in-store events, Luna continued. “We brought back one of our in-person workshops from pre-coronavirus times — wreath making — and it sold out three times! Customers were so excited to create in a group atmosphere again. They were able to shop before and after the workshop, increasing our average daily sales. Workshops and in-person shopping events will definitely be increased and promoted heavily for the ’22 holiday season!”
5. Be Neighborly.
When it comes to events, there is strength in numbers, Luna underscored. “We also plan to collaborate with our neighbors for more block-party style events to draw in larger crowds now that it is safer to do so.”
6. Stick with Tradition.
Year in and year out, annual events consistently draw customers, Luna explained. “And of course, our holiday open house — always held the first Saturday in November — was our best day of the year. We offer a free gift with purchase, complimentary drinks and food, festive music, and other fun perks.”
7. Count on Promotions.
Luna gets creative with promotions to build excitement. “Our 12 Days of Deals promotion, highlighting a different product or maker every day December 1-12, was also a big hit! It gave customers a reason to visit us online or in-person every day during that crucial selling time before the holidays! For customers who required shipping, we offered to hold all of their orders until the end and ship together to avoid multiple shipping fees.”
8. Be Charitable.
Integrating a great cause onto your selling floor can be a meaningful gift to the community, in that it enables customers to feel good about helping others as they gift friends and family. “We partnered with a local non-profit organization, Olive Crest, that works with foster children and parents in the area to create ‘giving trees’ for the holiday season,” Luna recalled. “The organization provided tickets with first names, ages, and desired toys or clothing needs that we hung on Christmas trees near each cash register. It provided an easy, heartfelt way for us and our customers to give back during the holiday season. Many customers chose to purchase the items in our stores, but they were not required to. The organization had to refill the trees many times! It was a win-win for all involved. We will definitely be partnering again in 2022.”
9. Scale Back When Needed.
In 2021, Luna noticed that her curated gift bundles “definitely still sold, but not at the same levels as 2020 when less people were able to travel. We will still offer them, but condense our offerings to our top-selling bundles!”
10. Take a Gamble.
When it comes to her ‘22 plans, Luna plans more in-person events, workshops, and experiences. “We’re hoping to start sampling all of our food and beverage gifts so customers can try before they buy. We’re also hoping to launch our monthly stationery subscription boxes in time for the holiday gifting season. Customers can order for themselves, or a box or long-term subscription as a gift! Each box will have a different theme and include extra goodies.”
11. Go Deep with Proven Winners.
Kandice Matsler, creative-in-charge at Barque, said holiday ‘21 was her best yet. “We ordered deeper in a few different categories than normal — Christmas ornaments, holiday pillows, and food/snacks — all of which were hits with our customers. We typically focus a good deal on stocking stuffers too, it’s one of our best-selling categories, because we don’t mind having a lot of those everyday items leftover after the holiday. As for Holiday ’22, we already have even more ornaments and pillows on order than last year, and we plan to continue expanding food and stocking stuffer items as well.”
12. Take a Breather.
Once Christmas actually arrived, Matsler and her staff enjoyed some well-deserved time off! “For the first time in 13 years, our store was closed for in-store shopping for most of the break between Christmas and the New Year. I really wanted my team and I to get a real, refreshing break after such a hectic year. At first, I was nervous to be unavailable to customers for so long, but they were very supportive and understanding. This year we might be closed for even more than a week!”
13. Have a Sale.
Since she plans to be closed in-store between Christmas and New Year’s, Matsler will hold a huge Online Customer Appreciation Sale to help clear out inventory. “We can add a few days to our holiday closure to pull the orders and get reorganized before we reopen for the New Year. I think the customers will appreciate the heavy discounts, and that will help us even out our inventory levels before the end of the year. Now that almost everything in the store is on our website, it seems silly NOT to utilize that platform for generating sales without having staff physically present.”
14. Order Early — and Often.
In ‘21, Matsler regretted waiting to receive holiday product because of lack of storage. “(Last year) we brought in most of our holiday merchandise earlier than normal (to combat supply chain issues), but this year we’re bumping up shipping dates even more to ensure we receive the product we want. We’re fully prepared to start stocking an off-site storage unit in May.”
15. Watch Those Numbers.
When evaluating what quantities to order, review December ‘21. “(Last year) we also completely underestimated how much inventory we would go through in December — it was way more than we had predicted,” Matsler pointed out. “After bringing in some new product categories, we were surprised how quickly they sold. This year we’ll expand those offerings and closely monitor any shifts in trends for Holiday ’22.”
16. Lifestyle Trends Inspire Events.
Like most stationers, Matsler wants to hold more in-person events, designed around existing marketplace hits. “(I’m) just hoping to have a more ‘social-in-person’ holiday season this year — charcuterie board classes, gift wrapping classes, shopping nights for private groups, etc.!”
17. Gift Your Goods.
For those selling direct-to-consumer like Shauna Green of Shavs Paper, Q4 is paramount — as is partnering with notable Instagrammers. “Last December alone I sold 25k worth of wrapping paper,” she remembered. “I think the main way was through influencer marketing. I have personal relationships with some celebrities and influencers, and so gifting them with some paper really helped my sales. Fortunately for me, my paper is pretty Instagrammable, so they all wanted to post without prompting them to do so.”
18. Rethink Your Holiday.
One way to really make the most of this special season is by stretching out promotions, as Linda O’Boyle, owner, Metro Home Style, did in ‘21. “During the pandemic we changed the model of our Holiday Open House from a two-day mobbed event to a full week of reserved shopping sessions we branded Gift Week. Feedback from customers clearly showed us that this new format was what they preferred, and it had nothing to do with COVID-19 fears — it was what they liked better! So we repeated it for 2021. It was a huge success and this is how we are doing large-scale events going forward. We (already) did it for our spring open house this year and will host Gift Week again in 2022.”
19. Coddle Your Clientele.
By integrating small-group appointments into Gift Week, sales are spaced out and built organically as individual attention is lavished upon each party, O’Boyle concluded. “Customers feel special arriving for their small-group appointments. They are given personal perks, swag and a signature cocktail upon arrival. It’s a much more relaxed shopping experience than the previous format where customers felt rushed, couldn’t get to displays because of the crowds, or only bought a few things because it was tiresome working their way through the mob, and they couldn’t concentrate on what/who they needed to buy for. Some people left because it was so crowded, saying they would ‘come back another time.’ The result of the new format is people stay longer, enjoy shopping more, the average sale is way up, (and) there is a lot less stress on staff. The bottom line of the reserved event is much higher than the previous open house format.”
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