Preparing for America’s Winter Holiday Season

October 6, 2016

We are just about to enter the biggest selling season of the year: the months of November and December. According to experts, these two months are when many retailers begin to show a profit. Furthermore, if the winter holiday season isn’t a smashing success, retailers will suffer. According to the National Retail Federation, over 80 percent of sales are made during the last 60 days of the year.

If you have been using an advertising calendar all year long, you have probably been using the recent trade shows as a starting point to pre-book winter seasonal products. The experienced retailer knows that the summer trade shows are where manufacturers and attending specialty distributors begin to show their Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah holiday products.

Traditionally, distributors begin to offer pre-booking deals in September, but if you wait until then to plan your holiday season strategy, you will be at the whim of companies that don’t necessarily know your clientele. Putting a plan together in July and presenting it to your distributors and manufacturers will help you get organized and may even influence your suppliers as they do their own planning for the holiday sales events.

The most successful promotions are those that include top selling items. You can capitalize on discounting a best seller by adding a qualifier. For example, when your customer buys the popular item, and they bundle it with an accessory, they get a special discount. Another scenario for a best seller promotion is the added value deal, where the customer buys the popular item and gets a free something. In this scenario, there might be some super deals available from manufacturers who have overstock or discontinued items.

One of the biggest problems with investing in holiday inventory is that you never know how much holiday-orientated merchandise to buy. The best way to protect yourself from over-buying is to under-buy specialty items and sell open stock, mix and match deals. An example would be a “build your own” Christmas stocking. If you are already selling dog and cat products, order extra or look for deals from manufacturer overstock items or promotional open stock items and display them in baskets, offering a price range depending on how many pieces are purchased.

This scenario can be duplicated for any category. For example, a tropical fish store could stock prepackaged aquarium kits but also offer an “added value free product” if a purchase is made during a specific time or with another accessory product.

The point I’m making here is that, if you plan ahead, you’re more likely to get a better price from your distributor on items that you want, rather than taking potluck and selling something that isn’t quite right for your clientele. Also, if you promote open stock “bundle deals,” you’re less likely to be stuck with hard-to-sell inventories after the holidays.

Having an advertising plan in advance of the holidays that you can share with suppliers will influence them when discussing discounts, especially with manufacturers. Most manufacturers spend a great deal of money advertising their products. When they see a retailer promoting their brand, they will more likely be willing to help that retailer’s efforts with extra discounts or free goods.

Your promotional advertising program can be as simple as handing out fliers each day in your neighborhood and advertising on your Facebook page. You could even budget some money to promote through Facebook with sales that are “sponsored” by your suppliers.
It’s worth the effort to make a sales plan in advance of the holidays and to be prepared to present your ideas to your suppliers as soon as possible. It’s not too late, but the clock is ticking.

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