The holidays are a time for family and friends to gather and celebrate with each other. There is a feeling of warmth and happiness. It is a time for parties and events. Learn how two retailers have transformed this warm and festive season into memorable events and inviting décor in their showrooms.
High Fashion Holiday Style
High-end home furnishings store C.S. Wo & Sons in Honolulu, Hawaii and Costa Mesa, Calif., has found a unique way to showcase high fashion holiday style in their showrooms. Their flagship location in Honolulu features a stunning display of holiday trees filled with gold ornaments and cherubs. A 14-foot tree can be found in the three-story atrium in the center of the showroom. Floating down the three-story atrium are 10, life-size cherubs, all carrying green-lit boughs toward the 14-foot tree.
The elegant décor continues with smaller lit trees throughout the showroom and green lit wreaths with gold-wired ribbon on all of the windows. Retail items are added to the tree displays and are displayed based on the color and style of the area. If it is a contemporary venue, then the trees are decorated with contemporary accessories.
Customers are greeted with the sounds of holiday music while smelling fresh-baked cookies and coffee. C.S. Wo offers customers a variety of seasonal merchandise to purchase, “We have many holiday items for sale including a variety of lit trees, Santas, angels, elves, ornaments, poinsettias, potpourri, holiday candles and Christmas CDs,” said Wendell Wo, owner, and Brad Harris, division manager. “We have Christmas items spread throughout the store and transform our 2,000 square foot accent gallery into a Christmas shop.”
Twelve years ago, C.S. Wo contacted island-newcomer Neiman Marcus to see if they were interested in partnering on a holiday event. Neiman Marcus agreed since they were new to Honolulu and C.S. Wo had a similar clientele. Since then, a beautiful partnership has been formed for the annual C.S. Wo holiday party. “We are very lucky to have the partnership with Neiman’s,” Wendell said. “After the success of the first year, they wanted to do it again, which is rare for Neiman’s to host events outside of their store. They said our event was a first-class event, and they liked how we portrayed them. Neiman’s also saw many of our clients from the party visit their store to purchase the displays that they had seen in our showroom.”
Today, the team at Neiman Marcus comes up with a theme for the holiday dining settings. Two weeks prior to the event, Neiman Marcus comes into C.S. Wo to set up eight, themed dining settings, which includes fresh flowers and fruits, their latest china patterns, crystal and silverware. One of the past themes was the Seven Deadly Sins with each dining table displayed to portray one of the seven sins.
The Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, the store is closed for a private event for C.S. Wo’s top 10 percent of customers (customers have to have spent a certain dollar amount in the store over the last five years).
The evening is meant to be a thank you to these customers, giving them the opportunity to view the gorgeous dining sets provided by Neiman Marcus as well as enjoy the elegant holiday atmosphere that has been created within the showroom. Small but dramatic touches, such as suggesting Judith Leiber crystal clutches as favors, or using Monolo Blahnik shoes for drinking vessels always makes for a memorable evening.
“We have food stations serving gourmet dishes, a martini bar and two full service bars in the showroom,” Wendell and Brad said. “There is a fashion show during the event with models showing the latest styles from Neiman Marcus.” Diamond Head Theatre’s childrens’ performing group called Shooting Stars sings carols throughout the showroom and a high school quintet performs in the center of the store.
The following day, C.S. Wo opens its doors to the rest of their customers. They send out an invitation and run a full page ad in the newspaper featuring the new Neiman’s displays. This day has turned into a popular day for C.S. Wo with customers purchasing holiday items, and has also helped Neiman Marcus sell the specialty items that are displayed in C.S. Wo & Sons.
The lavish Christmas party isn’t the only event C.S. Wo is known for. Their annual Chinese New Year’s event is a popular event for their clientele. The showroom is turned into a colorful display with strings of large, authentic golden lanterns that hang throughout the store. The evening focuses around a featured Asian (or Asian-inspired) designer and artist, with an area set up to display about 10 fashion outfits on mannequins and 30-40 pieces of artwork on easels.
“During this event, we have food cooking stations featuring Asian specialties such as suckling pig on buns, Thai curry chicken, Vietnamese soup and Korean spicy ribs. We also feature two open bars and a sake bar. Calligraphers and a fortune teller are stationed around the store for entertainment,” said Wendell and Brad. “About halfway through the evening, we start a fashion show that has models coming down the three flights of stairs in the building’s atrium. A troupe of 10 Chinese Lion Dancers follow the final set of models down the stairway and allow guests to ‘feed’ money to the lion for good luck.”
C.S. Wo created the two events as a way to say thank you to their customers, but over the years have found that these events are a great way to promote specific products: holiday décor during Christmas and antiques during the Chinese New Year.
Both events incorporate high fashion and style that has become synonymous with C.S. Wo & Sons.
Creating Lifelong Memories
The residents of Sumner, Wash., can always count on The Old Cannery Warehouse to provide them with great holiday memories. The 10-acre warehouse furniture store hosts fun and entertaining events throughout the year to thank the community for their support.
The holiday season is no different, and starts in early October when the entire showroom is transformed into a fall harvest. The Old Cannery Warehouse receives cornhusks and pumpkins from local pumpkin farms to decorate the showroom. The center of the store features a blow-up haunted house for children to walk through. At the very end, each child receives a free pumpkin to take home. “We want to make the store as fun as possible for the kids,” said The Old Cannery’s Events and Promotions Coordinator, Jackie Shaffer.
The holiday fun continues the day after Thanksgiving with The Old Cannery’s annual bridge lighting. “We put 10,000 white lights all over an antique bridge from the 1920s that is in our parking lot, and at 5 p.m. we have a countdown to the lighting of the bridge,” Jackie said.
Starting 12 years ago, attending the annual bridge lighting has become a tradition for many families in Sumner and the surrounding communities. The event has grown from 500 attendees the first year, to over 5,000 last year. “It has become a tradition for customers that know our store. They will do all of their shopping during the day, and then by five, they come in to watch the bridge lighting. It is a fun, family atmosphere and really has that ‘hometown’ feeling,” mentioned Jackie.
During the day of the bridge lighting, local vendors set up booths in the parking lot to sell items, and the Old Cannery provides roasted nuts, hot chocolate and coffee to keep attendees warm and happy. At 5 p.m., Santa, the mayor, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, and The Old Cannery CEO David Radcliff, are hoisted up into a lift above everyone to start the event. From the lift, they sing carols into microphones and they lead the countdown for the bridge lighting. Once the bridge is glowing, a firework show, hosted by Heritage Bank of Sumner, delights the attendees and helps them ring in the Christmas holiday season.
Along with the bridge lighting, one area of The Old Cannery Warehouse is transformed in Santa Land. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, customers can have a free photo taken with Santa. Santa Land is decorated to the nines with holiday-themed items and makes children feel like they have been transported to the North Pole. “We have the best Santa in the world—not only does he take a photo with each child, but he will stop and ask if the child has been good and what he or she might want for Christmas,” said Jackie. “I also hire elves to help Santa out every year. They lead the child from the line, up to Santa. It is really more than just taking a picture, it is creating a moment.”
Customers are willing to wait in line for sometimes up to an hour for this special moment. Once children are done talking to Santa, they walk through an archway, then over a chocolate river where they can take some candy. At the very end, another elf greets the children and hands them a balloon and their picture with Santa.
Two weeks prior to Christmas, old-fashioned, horse-drawn carriages are available to take customers for free rides around the outside of the warehouse. Customers might occasionally see a holiday mascot roaming the aisles as well—Frosty the Snowman has been known to make an appearance or two before Christmas and gives kids high fives throughout the store.
“All of our holiday events and décor are geared around families and children,” Jackie said. We aren’t trying to get people into our store to just shop—it’s our way of giving back to the community and creating memories for future generations. We have been here for 25 years, and the community has been good to us. In turn, we want to always give back to them.”
By Melissa Dressler, Western Retailer editor