July 17, 2019 • Sarah Schwartz
The Total Party Package Involves Invitations and More
For deeper sales, think beyond the invitation to the event itself
Retailers in the industry pay attention and now consider the total party package as a solution for consumers. Over the last few years, the card and gift shop has undergone a quiet but transformative shift as it seeks to serve more needs and expand sales. Some venues have gone the heavier gift route while moving away from personalized papers, while others are taking the party store route.
But forget the traditional party store full of mass-produced, cello-bagged, off-the-rack offerings. Instead, the same attention that used to be lavished on invitations is now devoted to every party element: from favors to décor, from DIY elements to completely custom touches.
Before you get overwhelmed, heed the advice of twin sisters Cedar and Megan Watson, owners of Paper Goat Post in Orlando, Florida. The two entered the retail realm from the event planning industry, so their perspective varies from that of the traditional stationer.
“To us parties should not be complicated or over-produced,” emphasized Cedar. “Selling the total party package is still all about the experience, even if the customer is just purchasing product from you. It’s important to tell their story with the paper and party products being sold for the event. This empowers them as a host and becomes a memorable experience for both the host and guests!”
ENHANCING YOUR OFFERINGS
Fortunately for our industry, there are a slew of gift companies offering product that blends well with traditional stationery merchandise. Take Merrilulu for instance, a relatively new vendor whose sloth party garland garnered Best New Product and Let’s Celebrate awards at February’s National Stationery Show.
Co-founder/COO Ranhee Butler noted that while the product look is upscale, Merrilulu’s prices aren’t. “We wanted to bring Etsy-like handmade design to customers at affordable prices. Our customers are ordinary moms (or dads).”
The company’s offerings also touch on our cultural desire for DIY that’s not too complicated, Butler added. “Nowadays, the Internet offers so many elaborate DIY options for parties, you don’t even know where to begin. We are simplifying party décor options so that parents can easily throw a party without too much stress.”
Another major player in the upscale party game is My Mind’s Eye. From plates to banners to fans to straws, their wares have added easy polish to countless affairs. “The majority of our customers are women who want to throw beautiful Instagram-or Pinterest-worthy parties without all the work and expense,” described Candice Stringham, marketing director. “They are people who are inspired by beautiful design and love paper products.”
Right now, Stringham sees her clientele craving more tabletop items, so My Mind’s Eye is accordingly introducing product to suit it. “People want everything at their parties to coordinate and making sure the décor and tabletop items match is a huge trend right now.”
FRESH OFFERINGS, FRESH PERSPECTIVE
To incorporate new party categories, go beyond the invitation and thank-you to take a more holistic approach to events. At Paper Goat Post, Megan Watson explained that she and her twin try to act as a calming beacon to stressed-out party hosts.
“We approach building sales for the entire event by offering a level of comfort to our customers. We openly share our expertise in planning to empower our customers. We feel there are three major parts of any party: logistics, design and budget. We use our expertise in these areas to help our customers simplify their often overwhelmed feelings that come with hosting a party.”
Party planning and invitation consulting have more in common than first meets the eye, detailed Cedar. “Just like an invitation consultation, our party planning process starts with a conversation about the look and feel our customer desires. We also talk event logistics and budget. Our expertise in planning allows us to translate our conversation into a realistic style board that summarizes our customer’s vision and offers resources for their party elements, everything from paper products to rentals to menu design that are within budget and take into consideration the logistics of their party.”
Right now the “must-have” party element is balloons, underscored Megan. “We’re seeing this timeless party item evolve into trendy statement pieces for parties. (We love) contributing to the flood of balloon installations filling social media feeds.”
Paper Goat Post has a Balloon Bar that makes preparing to celebrate any occasion an occasion as well. The entire concept fits well into two of the store’s philosophies: ‘gathering in celebration’ and ‘the thoughtful art of giving,’ Cedar observed, adding that incorporating the upscale balloon concept into an existing retail venue is less challenging than it appears.
“Alongside a curated selection of party products adaptable for all different party needs and themes, (our) Balloon Bar focuses on our oversized Billy Balloons with tassels and tails, rather than a full selection of Mylar shapes and themes. This niche selection offers our customers a unique add-on, (while) our Billy Balloons have also become a very giftable item for our customers.”
A show and sell approach is essential to party merchandise. Butler recommends hanging at least a banner or garland or two. “When you can touch and feel our products, you will know that our quality standard is high.”
“The retailers who do best with our product, display the product,” agreed Stringham. “We often have stores create entire window displays with our party supplies. It has great curb appeal and pulls consumers into the stores. We’ve also found stores that do the best with our product order enough selection that people are able to see the whole party in their mind.”
My Mind’s Eye sends wholesale clients additional product for display only, but ensures that it looks good in the package as well “so that it can easily be incorporated into a high-end boutique,” Stringham pointed out. “Whether you buy one piece or an entire collection, the packaging itself is pretty enough to create a beautiful display.”
Stringham finished that “almost everyone has something to celebrate” — and that is doubly true if they are already perusing your offerings. Party décor as well as the occasional DIY workshop supplies the inspiration to give substance to their milestones as you enhance your sales. And that’s a true win-win.