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Holiday Open House Brings Thousand Customers through the Store

By Majda Rensberger, OneCoast Contributing Editor

Every November, Tweed, a gift and accessories store in Richmond VA, prepares for their biggest event of the year: the Holiday Open House.  It’s their official kick off to the holiday season and one that their customers eagerly await.   We have customers who start coming into the store in September asking for the date of our Open House,” says Kate Stottlemeyer, owner of Tweed. It’s so big that due to its popularity and large traffic,  has evolved into a three day event sending up to a thousand customers through the store.

Holiday Open Houses are a crucial element to your 4th quarter business. They are an opportunity to capture holiday sales early, create buzz in the community and bring customers back a few times before the 25th.  For six years, Tweed has hosted a Holiday Open House event and every year it grows bigger and more successful.  With 300-500 customers shopping on Saturday, the main event day, Kate simply describes it as a “mad house” and shopping for customers was tough. To make shopping easier, they extended the event from one day to three days.

Between the three days of the event up to 1000 customers shop the store. “Our Open House days are by far our biggest sales days – 3 times as high as our best (non-open house day).  And, knock-on-wood, we’ve been able to break our record every year!”

Timing is Key

Holiday shopping being the most competitive time of the year, Kate suggests being the first one to have your Open House.  Kate uses the College football schedule as a factor in planning and schedules her event the days when local college games are at home as they gain additional traffic from town visitors.  If you don’t have a college football game to plan around, consider the weekend after Black Friday. With Black Friday being a high traffic day every year, an Open House event the weekend after gives customers yet another strong incentive to shop your store.


 “I would absolutely offer a discount,” says Kate, “and it doesn’t have to be huge. We offer 15% off the entire store, and you would think it was 50% based on the shoppers; something to incentivize people into the store for the event.  Take the mentality of “if you build it, they will come”, and be ready for more than you expect (food, and staff).”

In addition to the discount, there are prize drawings and free gifts with purchase. Every customer that walks in enters a drawing for a free present. Tweed partners with various vendors like Mud Pie and Vera Bradley for free giveaways. Drawings are a great way to excite the customers but also build your database.

Gift with purchase is a great way to motivate customers to spend that extra $5 or $10. For every $50 purchase, Tweed gives away a free tote bag and customers love it.

So when you combine the discount, giveaways and gift with purchase with great food, music and people, you make your store, the store to shop.

Getting the Word Out

Getting 1000 people to shop your store requires marketing. In addition to word of mouth, Kate uses an integrated approach to her marketing, making sure that she reaches her most valuable customers every way she can.  That includes a post card invitation to customers who purchased within the last 12 months, email blast to the entire database of 4000 customers and Facebook to generate buzz and further spread the word.  Combined, these marketing vehicles drive traffic to your event.

Creating a Festive Environment 

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Just like first impressions, the first step into your store is one of the most important ones. Liven your customer’s holiday spirit and inspire holiday purchases by creating an environment. “Our Open House days feel very festive with lots of food, music and decorations that spread the holiday buzz.”  Displays are beautifully merchandised and capture attention, inspire ideas and most importantly inspire a purchase.

Service, Service, Service 

But in the end, what truly makes a Holiday Open House successful and what sets the stage for years ahead is your service. “One can offer the best promotions, serve the greatest food but it’s that human touch and relationship that makes it what it is. Our customers love coming to Tweed because we treat them like family,” says Kate.

When you walk into the store, a greeter welcomes customers with a big smile as they would a friend into their home. Staff is stationed throughout the store to answer questions and assist customers and vendors attend to help educate on their products.

Ready to make 2010 another record breaking event, Kate says it’s really simple: “Make it an event that is special and unlike any other day in your store.  Most importantly, have fun!  In a way, it’s a cocktail party and you and your staff are the hosts.”

A Look Inside: Q & A on best categories, trends & successes

Brief History of Tweed 

Tweed is a family owned and operated gift and accessories store in Richmond, VA.  We opened in Richmond in October, 2004, and just moved into a bigger location in June, 2010.  We have gifts and accessories for women, men, kids, babies, and your home!  We also have an e-commerce website: www.tweedathome.com that launched in November, 2009.   

Q: What's the biggest trend you are seeing in your store?

A: In this economy, the trend is gifts, gifts, and more gifts.  The option to re-decorate your home comes with a good economy, and when times are tougher, we’ve found that the gifts never go away.  So, we have definitely adjusted our inventory to be more heavily weighted on the gifts, and that has made a difference for us in the last couple of years.  The biggest trends in gifts...Initials and personalization are still going strong!

Q: What products sell best in your stores?

A: We have a variety of vendors – hundreds.  Purses, shoes, tote bags, entertaining ware, house wares…it truly is a little bit of everything.  Our store has something for everyone on your shopping list. Also, a key factor for us is price point.  We try to find the most unique and well-priced items. 

Q: What categories sell best?

A: Women’s accessories; gifts for the Home; Collegiate; Jewelry; Baby; and anything personalized! 

Q: What makes your store unique and keeps customers coming back?

A: The changing merchandise and the customer service. 

Q: What has been the best event you've held to date?

A: Our Holiday Open House.  Our second runner up is the Grand Re-Opening party we had when we moved into our new location (June, 2010).  We had a band and fabulous food – over 300 guests attended on a Tuesday evening in the summer…we were thrilled! We didn’t offer a discount, but we had plenty of giveaways, and artists/vendors on-hand. 

Q: Besides events what do you do to market yourself?

A: Our website, Facebook, email, and local advertising in a few key publications.

Q: One IDEA to share with retailers?

A: We are working to create a more active Facebook page by offering weekly Facebook deals and giveaways.  We have seen the results of getting people into the store when you can keep dangling “teasers” in front of them! 

JOIN OUR FACEBOOK DISCUSSION: What was your best event to date? What made it successful? Click here to respond.

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