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The H Word: Have a Display Plan for the Holidays

Debi Ward Kennedy

How are your plans for Holiday 2009 coming along? Yes, I said the H word. Holiday.

If you have a plan or have it all ready to go, bravo! If not, read on!

The hard part is that you need to have a plan ready for how, where, when, and why those boxes of product will make it to the sales floor. And you need that plan NOW, my friends. Before you pull an all-nighter to set it up. Before you leave a list of 'to do's' with the staff. Before you have the invites for your big fall decor unveiling event printed. (You ARE having a big unveiling event, aren't you?) Before your ads hit the media.

Since most retailers count on the holiday season for a large percentage of their annual income, it makes sense to plan for it. But far too many businesses just roll the stuff out on carts and start stuffing it into display. Don't sabotage yourselves! With a bit of planning, you can reap all of the benefits of a successful Holiday season.

Need more product for holiday displays? OneCoast has top sellers.
Initial Spreader Asst from Mud Pie
Initial Dot Ornaments from Coton Colors
Snowman Taper Hat from Deco Glow
Spode Christmas Throw from Scene Weaver
Ornaments, Set of 4 from Sunset Vista Designs
  • First, determine where the main focal locations are in your store.

    Front & center, windows and immediate adjacencies, and both behind & beside the cash wrap are always a good place to start, generally speaking. Stand in your store entrance and see where your eye naturally lands as you enter, just as your customers do. Then look behind your front & center display area - a bit farther back into your store. There's one great spot. And then back a bit farther, there is another. If you focus on these areas, you will create a corridor of display areas that will focus attention on your holiday merchandise and act as a device to draw your customers into the depths of your store.

    I mention this because in my line of work, I see far too many retailers that pack the entire front of their stores with Holiday merchandise.... and it sells, yes. But they miss the opportunity to get customers into the other areas of their stores - the areas that hold the basic, day-to-day product lines, the bread & butter lines, that people use all year long. The ones you want them to come back to your store for after the Holidays are over. Build in a reason for them to remember you and return...

  • Next, look at what you've purchased for the season and determine what works together to create themes or styles.

    Will you have a white wintery look, a warm woodsy look, and a bright colorful look? Will you have country, shabby chic, French flea market, and modern vintage styles? Once you've determined that, look around your store and see what you already have that fits in those categories. Adding everyday merchandise to your new Holiday offerings expands the scope and impact, plus it helps you make room on your sales floor to FIT all that new stuff! You don't have to pack up the old stuff, just rearrange it in new groupings & settings.

    Now, you need to figure out how you can take those Holiday products and create big, fabulous displays with them. Take that winter white theme I mentioned: can you add big branches sprayed with snow, and bring in a selection of old sleds to use as risers for the white ceramic snowman figures, dishes, and ornaments? Take a theme and run with it - add large-scale props like these to make it really engaging. Sprinkle some faux snow around to really give it a mood.

  • Then, add some NON-Holiday merchandise to those displays.

    To the example above, I'd add some plain white dishes, cups, red napkins, a selection of hot chocolate mixes, little bags of marshmallows, (and display some in big glass vases), and of course mittens and scarves. Youv'e just taken 'everyday' merchandise and elevated it to extraordinary by association with the Holiday theme - AND you have increased the likelihood of raising the per transaction total of a purchase. (How could your customer possibly buy a ceramic mug with a snowman on it as a gift without also buying the hot chocolate mix and some marshmallows?!)

A simple way to keep your displays looking fresh & new throughout the season is to create a 'set' that will help you feature many types of merchandise. To show off themed papers, stationery, partyware, and ornaments, a long harvest table, a few chairs, and a sideboard arranged like a dining room will hold a ton of product and will help you present it successfully every season:

In fall, use harvest baskets to present the items and an old ladder hung horizontally overhead to hang more baskets from. For Halloween, switch it out to black & white & orange, and hang lots of black chandeliers overhead. For Thanksgiving, group items on large platters and in soup tureens - yes, even cards and gift bags and napkins! This creative presentation will make your customers smile and notice those everyday items in a new way. When it's time for Christmas merchandise, bring in the everyday dishes and mixing bowls and cookie cutters and aprons and kitchen stuff.... make it look like an old fashioned cookie baking party. Then add in the holiday papers and cards that coordinate with that look to take it over the top. Add in some vanilla, birthday cake, and cupcake scented candles for a real sensory effect!

These are really simple, easy ways to be effective with your visual merchandising. Planning each display area's 'set' and use throughout the season will help you maximize your time, your effort, and your profits. And your customers will be clamoring to see just what you come up with next...

(Oh, by the way, have you started planning for winter/spring 2010 yet? Olympics, anyone?!)

Reprinted with permission from Debi Ward Kennedy. Read more at http://decodivadebi.blogspot.com or DebiWardKennedy.com.

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