Decking Your Halls For Fun and Profit

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The retail marketplace is (and always has been) seasonal and holiday-driven. The powersports industry is not accustomed to focusing on a well-planned, yearlong merchandising and marketing event calendar. We should pick up a few tricks from the general retail world.

At the beginning of each year, you should have mapped out the events for the entire 12 months. The events should have a purpose or theme, for it's easier to plan advertising and arrange for related props and entertainment if you have a focus. It helps the event coordinator, your advertising manager and the staff to get into the proper party mood according to the event.

For example, if I say we are having a:

  • Mardi Gras Party — out come the costumes, masks and lots of beads in the store, on the units, employees and customers. Don't forget the Cajun music.
  • Chili Cook-Off and Bike Show — focus on a Tex/Mex or Western theme.
  • Salsa Fest and Poker Run — get out the sombreros and warm up the maracas. Don't forget the nachos and tacos.
  • Biker Beach Party — bring on the bikini bike wash, bathing suit contest and hot dog eating competition.
  • Christmas Party — You might rename the reindeer after your motorcycle models or list the fuel economy for each model. Have units pulling as a team to carry a sleigh full of accessories.

Whatever your theme, to pull if off, tie the theme into your décor, props, advertising, staff attire, music and food. People are motivated by the five senses; the more senses you involve, the more memory customers will retain. Use it to your advantage in creating successful marketing and promotional campaigns throughout the year.

TIME'S A-WASTIN'

It's October and if you don't already have a finished holiday plan (including a retail theme to increase interest and excitement), you'd better work on it right now. Once you finalize your holiday theme, your advertising department can start preparing ads, formats and artwork to support the theme.

Your store should be decked out with holiday décor the weekend before Thanksgiving, and you should keep it going until New Year's. All retailers milk this time of year to the fullest — and this year, with the price of gas and the economic slowdown, you will need to follow suit.

One of our Christmas holiday plans incorporated a customer appreciation night and shopping event, complete with three roasted pigs. My designer and I developed a graphic capitalizing on the pig theme. We used little flying pigs with angel wings, and they pulled Santa's sleigh over the store on the mailer. My little pigs became the holiday icon, and we dressed them in leather jackets, gave them helmets, or placed them on bikes. They were everywhere — on all advertisements and throughout the store décor.

When the advertising and event themes are related and continuing, customers will better associate the advertising to your store.

When I prepare a holiday decoration plan for a store, I first clarify the theme. I will always develop a main seasonal display in a high-impact zone, like in the 100 percent zone as you enter the center of the store. This is a large and powerful traffic stopper — most likely, a large tree and color-coordinated holiday décor that will tie into this year's theme. This composition will be visually appealing and interesting and incorporate a unit, some P&A and apparel, as well as holiday props. The colors incorporated in all of the décor will be derived from the theme.

(Every year I try for a slightly different variation. Since commercial-sized décor is expensive, you can use a lot of it year after year and refresh it by adding some new pieces and pulling some others from the supplies. Props are saved and stored year to year unless you have leased them.)

Minor displays in every department should have a piece of holiday going on. Everywhere your customers look they should be reminded of gift-giving options, upselling, and coordinating items together for the package deal.

Customers should receive visual inspiration for what is coming next. Displays must be in position from 30 to 60 days before the holiday or event. Advertising formats usually require 60 days prior to print, but some local print ads can be accomplished in a few weeks' turnaround. You need time to put it all together.

Christy Michaud is an independent retail consultant for the powersports industry. E-mail quiestions and comments to Michaud via editors@dealernews.com.