HOLIDAYS 2006

Get Your Store ready for Halloween through Hanukkah

by Jack Weingartner Craftrends August 2006

 

Itís a pretty safe bet that youíve thought about the upcoming holidays and the chaos that accompanies them in the retail business. Perhaps you even have your store decorated in fall colors with requisite pumpkins and muilti-colored leaves as you enter into August. But, are you really ready? Do you have a strategic plan for the fourth-quarter holidays that goes beyond the idea that your shoppers will be buying gifts and increasing your store revenue? When is it the right time to start classes for Christmas cards, or to display embellishments for Thanksgiving name cards? When is it too late or too soon to hold a needlepoint or quilting class themed around Hanukkah?

There are various indicators that can help a store owner and management team determine when the best time to start holiday promotion is. Coupled with a grasp of the yearís trends and monetary forecasts, the right class schedules, in-store promotions, and customer care can reap the maximum amount of profit as well as garner your store a reputation for being on top of things.

Craftrends decided to take a close look at what some of the chains have already done to begin this process, and what that means to an independent store owner. We have also incorporated the comments of consumers to give you an idea of where the average customer might be coming from. While admittedly unscientific, it can provide an idea of what youíre up against before it pins you this holiday season.

BIG BOX COMPETITION

As if the presence of a Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or Jo-Ann Store down the street isnít already enough for independents, the web age has affected business greatly, too. Since the chains have polished web sites and many small stores are lucky to have e-mail, the big box guys get an immediate jump-start.

As early as June, Michaelsí web site had Christmas-themed project sheets on its site for free, and even featured a link on top of the home page for Christmas, nestled in among the normal yarn and needlecrafts, scrap booking, and other craft genres. Clearly, Michaels knows that consumers are thinking about the holidays before itís too late for them to make their own themed dťcor, gifts, and fun projects. The selection at Michaels this summer included ornaments, a needlepoint pattern, and even a section of fun crafts labeled, "Christmas projects to start now."

In thinking about the impending season, a simple place to start for your store is a corner or a table that is decorated in seasonal colors and themes and provides your customers with a selection of projects and ideas that will not only get them on the path towards completing their holiday projects, but also give you an idea of what will be a hot seller for your store in the coming months. This can include everything from Halloween projects for kids to ethnic ideas in the vein of Kwanzaa, and, of course, a selection of Christmas craft ideas - whether they be a Christmas quilt or scrapbook pages that highlight the hottest techniques and products while staying seasonal.

One consumer says she begins her projects as early as the week after the winter holidays conclude. This is partly because of the major sales that stores of all stripes hold, but also because she wants to get as many presents done as early as possible. "A big store allows me a wide variety of things that I have a hard time finding other places," she said.

The Ben Franklin Crafts in Redmond, Washington, has the advantage of being a general craft store to help with the customerís desire to find everything in one place. However, the store is successful because it is forward thinking.

Staff there offered a holiday card club/class that started in early summer to help their customers get a jump on their personal send-outs before things get crazy. This idea, or one that fits your specialty (such as a stocking club or Christmas quilt club) is one that isnít too late to begin for your store now. "I like when a store gives me a way that makes me feel like Iím a special customer even if I donít spend a lot," one consumer said while shopping at a scrapbook chain store. Your customers feel the same.

Helping customers realize that the holidays are approaching and that your products are products that will help make the holidays all they can be is vital. Therefore, itís never too early to start pushing the holidays.

HOT TRENDS

Whether you specialize in a certain craft genre or are a general craft store, the forecasted trends of 2006 should be important to you. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and other fall themes will hold true to red, orange, and black. Christmas will always be associated with red and green even though the trend colors change every year, so itís important to stock both in appropriate quantities.

The surprising trend color for Christmas 2006 is none other than black. When combined with white to make a fresh look, black is an elegant, and unexpected, look for the holiday.

In addition, trend watchers have said that the green of this season is lime on the light side and an ivy on the dark side, while the hot reds are bright when paired with the lime green.

Pale metallics and purple are also in the mix for Christmas this year, combining for new opportunities to help shoppers see how to mix it up.

Many consumers rely on their favorite stores to act as their tastemaker. As one put it, "Iím never sure what is going to be in style, so I wait and see what the storeís displays tell me." The question that any store needs to ask itself is, "What are my displays telling my customers?"

While it is true that some customers wonít know what the trendy colors are, many will - and those consumers will be looking to see if youíre "in the know." In addition, the uninformed shopper that spots the trendy new products and colors at your store and is therefore indoctrinated into the trends will remember your displays and your store as her helper.

Other trends that are important to note and think about for incorporation into your storeís holiday strategy include the use of polar bears, penguins, and swans in lieu of angels and snowmen, although collectors of those characters will more than likely still be looking to add to their collection.

Trends from the past year still look to be strong when you think in terms of the Red Hat Society, pampered pets, and personalized products, all of which Craftrends warned you months ago. One hot trend that needle and quilt shops might want to explore is the rise in personalized needlepoint pillows. Make a few examples of this trend done in a modern, tasteful way, and see if it catches on with your clients.

GET READY!

Retail expert Pam Danziger has said that as many as 20 percent of the population has already begun their holiday shopping. Itís never too early to be thinking about Wish Lists and making sure you have enough stock for gift-giving favorites.

Oracle has reported that the 2006 holiday buying season is going to be a busy and successful one, which is always welcome news to a storeowner. This research also shows that following trends and being able to predict their outcomes is extremely important. 45 percent of retailers say that their greatest challenge this season will be to predict market and product demands.

Your store can benefit from advanced preparation as much as your customer benefits from it. If your goal is to get as many customers to see your place as their primary store for holiday craft and hobby needs, then it is vital that you hook them early, whether through a class or club, or simply by sparking their creativity with holiday projects. Be ready to restock the hottest items, and to be creative in using slower moving items through your own creativity and class schedule.

Perhaps most importantly, donít fall into the temptation to set your holiday plan and become stagnant in it. Be ready to shift on the fly, change up classes, promotions, and store decorations (see www.dismar.com for great ideas.)

The holidays can be a great source of strength for your store, or they can set you back - plan now to make Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and even Kwanzaa as profitable to your store as they are precious to your shoppers.

Reprinted by permission, Craftrends Magazine, Copyright 2006.     http://www.craftrends.com

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