By René Johnstone-Gingrich
‘Tis the season to deck the halls and cash in on increased holiday sales. Well planned and flawlessly executed holiday accessorizing can be the difference between making the cash register bells jingle or having a series of silent nights. The holidays offer an amazing opportunity to dazzle your customers and reap the rewards of doing so. But first you want to consider, “How do you want your customers to feel when they walk through the store?”
The shopping experience must appeal to all senses, and it goes far beyond decking the halls with boughs of holly. There is much to consider when accessorizing for the holidays. Many choices are unique to the individual location and directly impact sales.
Following are some time-tested holiday merchandising rules to live by. I have listed nine tips on planning and carrying out a holiday accessorizing strategy that is pleasing to the eye and the bottom line.
Get organized ahead of time: Prepare your warehouse or store room for the seasonal onslaught. Organize, categorize, systemize and make sure everything is in order so that sales are not lost. This ensures items are found quickly and make it onto the sales floor to increase profits. Advance planning before the holiday rush hits will allow you to have all available sales power on the selling floor.
It’s not just about what they see: Remember that the experience your customer has inside your business is a multi-sensory experience. Remember that beyond visuals, the smell of the space and the sounds (including music) play an important role in a customer’s perception of your business. It is important that the space is free of any offensive odors (chemicals, overpowering perfumes, etc.). Scent is the sense most closely connected to emotion. Scents such as vanilla and spiced cider lean more gender neutral and will evoke nostalgia. Likewise, choose background music or background sounds that are appropriate and work to further the sensory experience you are trying to create.
Make sure your displays are “Customer Friendly”: In a creative business, we can often get so caught up designing something fabulous that the usability or more importantly “purchasability” of the items on display get overlooked. Be certain that items on your displays are easily accessible to customers so they are not left to wander aimlessly looking for items to purchase. Between cleverly organized merchandising and an attentive sales staff, that opportunity to increase sales should not be missed.
Create an experience: Part of providing outstanding customer service involves providing a total experience. It is all the more important in this day and age when we are hyper-connected electronically but lacking in human connections. Your customers also are seeking personal interaction and want to be treated like an individual and not a transaction. The holidays offer the perfect opportunity to deliver exceptional customer service and a truly memorable shopping experience. Create an outstanding experience with planning, thoughtfulness and imagination. Staff should welcome customers and treat them as if they were guests in their own homes. Be sure all shoppers receive a friendly holiday greeting and, if appropriate, are offered a cappuccino or hot cocoa. Walk them to the door and offer a sincere expression of thanks when they leave the store with their purchases and don’t forget to invite them back. These small gestures will make them feel special, and let them know that you appreciate their business. Most importantly, have employees in place that are well trained, empowered and believe in the importance of delivering exceptional experiences to build customer loyalty.
Showcase multiple styles: Today there is a much broader selection of styles for holiday accessories. We have Old World Holiday, Retro Holiday, Whimsical Holiday, Uber Chic Holiday and everything in between available to us. Give some serious thought to what type of holiday merchandising reinforces your image and will speak to your target market. Some retail locations are very style specific and will be attracting customers looking for holiday accessories that correspond to that look so be sure to be able to meet those needs. If you sell multiple design styles in your store, then you will want to support those styles and have multiple options for holiday styling as well.
Make it count: Don’t underestimate the power of a phenomenal display. When crafting holiday displays with your accessories go for the “Wow” factor. Use multiples to make an impact. Instead of showing one large vase filled with decorative glass ornaments on a dining table, display three. This will not only be the show-stopper you were hoping for but it can encourage your customer to choose to purchase three vases instead of one.
Get creative: Give some thought to how you can design displays and merchandise to showcase everyday items and feature them as the perfect holiday gift. Consider assembling unique combinations of merchandise as well. A great example is to pair smaller ticket items that when put together make a unique gift. You might also consider creating a Christmas tree shape out of stacked storage ottomans or hang table lamps upside down from the ceiling with bows on them. Look at easy-to-add items and consider how they can enhance displays to be visually interesting. Give your customer a reason to consider it as a gift item or decide it’s something they must have.
Sell lifestyle: Combine holiday accessories and everyday accessories in such a way that it evokes a sense of personal style. Customers want to experience the lifestyle that a certain vignette conveys. This draws them into the experience and entices them to make purchases that will help them to create that feeling in their own home. Merchandising that paints a portrait of an inspirational lifestyle is incredibly effective.
Don’t overlook the value of the gift certificate: Gift certificates are a popular add-on gift that can greatly impact your bottom line. Have a system in place that makes the process of purchasing gift cards or certificates quick and easy. They are particularly appealing to the time-strapped shopper so be sure to have them readily available and displayed prominently near the cash register for last minute purchases.
Remember your goal is to create a multi-sensory experience that evokes emotions and promotes sales. Create a happy holiday mood and festive atmosphere in your store and enjoy a little extra jingle in your pocket. The importance of retail aesthetics cannot be overstated. Consider appearance, feeling and aroma as these are important and influential factors when people are making decisions on how and where to spend their holiday budget.
René Johnston-Gingrich is vice president of training development for the Profitability Consulting Group, specializing in delivering the programs Design Trac: Design Skills for Retail Sales People and Sales Trac III: In Home Selling. Rene’ has owned and operated an interior design firm for 17 years and now works with organizations to ensure they have the best possible team environment.
Rene’ is a regular columnist for The Lewiston Tribune Business Profile and an adjunct faculty member of Lewis-Clark State College’s Business Division. Rene’ has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Planning and Design and a Master’s Degree in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.