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Creative Holiday Marketing Can Boost Sales

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The pet retail industry is just like retail sectors insofar as many rely on the holiday season to produce big sales and give a healthy boost to the year-end bottom line.

According to the American Pet Owner’s Association, Americans spend around $5 billion on their pets during the holiday season, and 76 percent actually buy items to give to their pets as gifts.

But such heavy reliance on one season of the year also carries some risk:

What if the holiday rush that benefits everyone else somehow eludes you?

What if your strategy for attracting holiday shoppers doesn’t resonate for whatever reason?

Pet retailers who want to make the most of holiday sales are well-advised to be intentional about their strategies — putting a plan in place and making its execution a priority, rather than simply opening the door and assuming the heavier volume of shoppers at the holiday season will necessarily bring the desired boost in revenues.

Using the Media

It starts with an idea of how you want to use media, but of course, media doesn’t mean the same thing today that it did even 10 years ago. Blogger Michael Cohn suggests social media, when deployed effectively, can help make up for economic conditions that might lead to a disappointing holiday season.

“Even though households may not be bursting with expensive gadgets and large packages this year, gifts will still be purchased and exchanged,” Cohn writes. “Marketers have been experimenting using social media; however, it has been difficult to quantify the results. Depending on who you speak with, the profit generated by social media is either hidden because the consumer doesn’t generally make a purchase through the social media channels directly or because the brand loyalty or brand recognition effect is often strongest but not necessarily translated into immediate purchases.”

It’s easier, of course, for major national chains to gain large followings on Facebook and Twitter, but a local pet retailer can often do quite well by using in-store promotions, e-mail newsletters and other techniques to encourage people to like or follow them on social media. As they gain an audience, it gives them an opportunity to start dialogues with fans and followers about what matters most to them for their pets during the holiday season.

The traditional kickoff days of Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday (the Monday after Black Friday) have of course grown in importance in recent years, to the point where many retailers now begin Black Friday sales as early as 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, before the last football game is even over.

That of course demands a lot of employees and management, and a pet retailer would be wise to get a sense of customer interest in such sales before committing to those kinds of hours. But effective promotion in the weeks leading up to Black Friday should arm a pet retailer with reasonably good information about what will get customers out on that day. Would they come for a 70 percent discount on the aquarium technology, for example, and make other purchases at the normal price during their visit?
Cyber Monday obviously requires a retailer to have an online presence that includes the availability to facilitate online purchases. Many e-commerce sites, including Amazon and Big Cartel, allow retailers to establish accounts and sell products online even if their own individual web sites are not set up to do so.

LifeHacker.com offers an excellent rundown of options for stores who want to sell online.

Know the Shopper

One staple of the holiday sales season is the last-minute shopper, and retailers can often gain extra holiday sales simply by staying open late and catering to the procrastinator who is desperate to find just the right gift, but is running out of time and knows it. During the 2012 holiday season, all the retailers at Clearwater, Fla.-based Westfield Countryside Mall made the decision to extend their hours late in December.

- Dan Calabrese

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