Selling the Holidays: Why You Should, Shouldn't and How to Do it Right

Heart TagLike many other American holidays, Valentine’s Day means more money in the retail cash registers. The National Retail Federation says, this year, shoppers will spend a record $18.9 billion on the ones they love. $1.7 million will go toward candy, another $3.4 million for a special night out and one in five will spend a combined $4.8 million on jewelry.

With numbers like those, creating holiday themed products for your store seems like a no-brainer. But where there’s reward, there’s also risk.

The biggest issue any retailer faces when dealing with holiday products is the short sales window. The more holiday specific the product, the narrower the window. For example, a heart bracelet might sell any day of the year. But a heart bracelet with the words Be My Valentine engraved on it could sell from late January until February 10th.  If you’re selling fresh flowers or Valentine’s Day cupcakes, you just narrowed your window from a few weeks to a few days.

We all hope that our products will be sought after, but what happens if twenty people want a hand-decorated cake delivered on February 14th? Any profit you might have made, could end up being spent on extra help and overpriced ingredients from the grocery store.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Time isn’t the only thing you need to consider when deciding on a line of holiday products. You also have to think about your store’s aesthetic and the expectations of your customers. If you’re known for your dark, art sculptures made with recycled materials, a cutesy Valentine card with hearts and puppies is going to stand out in all the wrong ways.

That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t create works to honor Valentine’s Day. Your audience might appreciate an edgy card with love quotes from Edgar Allan Poe. 

As a seller, the temptation to give the customers what you think they want can override your better judgment. I once worked with a sign maker who decided to get into the gift basket business a week before Christmas. He spent thousands of dollars on materials, built an ordering system on his company website then called every one of his clients with the good news. Corporate gift giving made easy!  

His clients were understandably confused. Why was a sign maker sell holiday gift baskets? And why was he selling them so close to Christmas? He didn’t sell a single basket and ended up selling off everything he couldn’t return to the stores for pennies on the dollar.

Lesson learned: just because it’s a shopper’s holiday, doesn’t mean you have to cater to the holiday crowd.

Your Special Day

If you do enjoy making holiday-themed items and they’re a good fit for your store, then you should do so with great gusto. The upside of a short retail window is that it forces customers to make a decision. They could take three weeks to decide whether or not they want that beaded bracelet, but the clock is ticking on heart-shaped soaps. Same goes for Halloween masks and Mother’s Day cards.

At this point, it’s a little late to start selling for Valentine’s Day but there are plenty of holidays ahead, so here are some tips on how to successfully sell holiday-themed products.

1. Theme the packaging, not the item

You can sell red, white and blue candles separately any time of the year. Bundle them together with a flag and a firework bow and you have the perfect Fourth of July gift. When you theme only the packaging, you lower your risk of getting stuck with an out of season item.

2. Stay six months ahead

If you plan to sell products for Halloween, start creating them now and get them in your store by late Summer.  No one likes to rush a holiday, but you want to give Google and your customers, plenty of time to discover your wares.

3. Do holidays your way

Brainstorm new ways to put your own spin on holiday classics. Customers can buy the usual gifts on Amazon. They’re coming to you for something handmade and special.  Create scary bunnies for Easter, fishing lures for Mother’s Day, and how about a pastel Halloween? Don’t worry about going too far a field; if you love it, there are people out there who will love it as much as you do. And, if you're the only person selling orange and green Christmas ornaments, people will have no choice but to buy them from you.

Do you stock your store with holiday themed products? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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