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Take Stock for Holiday Merchandising Now

By Susan Friedman

Love it or hate it, here we go again. Ah, Christmas. Yes, it’s the season of peace, goodwill, gingerbread and egg-nog lattes and lest we forget, merchandising. Now’s the time to find ways to thank your customers for sticking with you, in what for many, has been a difficult year. As the broader “nesting” trend continues, consumers are focused on home and family amid a world in turmoil. The holiday season will become even more important as many look to keep long-celebrated traditions alive.

As the planning for the next season begins in earnest, merchandising plays an important part of building sales for coffee, tea, cappuccino and related accessories. Ready to rack up successful sales this holiday season? One of the first rules of thumb is the following: concentrate on strengths and core offerings. Time and again, retailers decide to do everything poles apart for the holiday - but that often confuses customers. Don’t abandon the selling strategies that make your base buy your products in the first place. Remain on the ball.

Innovation in gift-giving (and self-consumption) options this year will be key to a profitable 2004 holiday season, according to a new Packaged Facts study. “Since the holiday season on average accounts for 25% of a company’s annual revenue, retailers and manufacturers must start thinking outside the ‘gift box’ to be successful this year,” reports Don Montuori of Packaged Facts. The study predicts that more gifts will come in envelopes rather than boxes. Gift cards in particular continue to increase in popularity, accounting for 10% of 2003’s $226 billion in holiday sales. The fact that customers added $37.5 million to their Starbucks Cards this past holiday period is evidence of the opportunity. Sales saw a boost, in part, from a test introduction of a holiday Hallmark card that included a slot specifically for the gift card, according to Starbucks Interactive.

Virtually three-quarters of U.S. consumers want to receive monetary gifts during the holiday season. And nearly 70% of holiday shoppers would like to give these types of gifts as well, usually in the form of cash, gift cards or gift certificates. And even though the purchase is logged as a liability until the card is swapped for merchandise, retailers say that gift cards foster customer loyalty, help win new customers and often coax consumers into spending more than the value on the card, according to the National Retail Federation. So, to benefit the 2004 sales year, most retailers will depend on holiday gift-card recipients to spend by the time their fiscal year ends January 31st.

Persuading shoppers to choose monetary gift cards and gift certificates requires clever signage just as much as any other ancillary display does.

But preparing for merchandising in-store isn’t the only thing you need to think about. “We’re accustomed to seeing Christmas trees and holiday displays at the mall before Halloween. While it may irritate some shoppers, it’s good marketing,” says Kara Heinrichs, chief customer experience officer at Fry Multimedia. The Ann Arbor, Michigan, company manages e-commerce sites for such clients as Eddie Bauer, Crate & Barrel and Coach. “Our research suggests it makes good business sense for retailers to do the same thing online. Basically, they can’t start too soon.” For instance, netpreneurs such as Giftbaskets.com send out holiday e-mail notices offering 10% discounts to anyone who buys before November 15th.

Others also advise to take your in-store methods online in order to cater to the “plugged in” consuming society. Smart holiday content - gift suggestions, gift etiquette and product reviews - will keep people at your site for longer periods. The minute you stop marketing, you stop selling, reports bCentral.

Holiday marketing involves a lot more than sending out a “season’s greetings” card and putting up seasonal banners and lights. So when developing your merchandising strategies, always reassess what’s important to your trading venue and your consumer demographics. Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of Why People Buy Things They Don’t Need, says “Consumers today spend proportionately less on basic necessities, but they spend more and more money on discretionary purchases that are motivated by emotion and desire.”

There is nothing wrong with making the most of the shopping season, with ads, promotions and special offers to lure business. Displaying your pride and patriotism isn’t going to hurt either. But be mindful of the economic climate and ethnic and religious differences. Whatever you do, do it in good taste. And of course, last-minute discount promotions could help you unload as much merchandise as possible this year.

What’s left to do? Unpack the tinsel.

Holiday Revenue Makers
Are you awash with holiday pomp? For many, the holiday season can present a real learning curve. It’s a time to finesse one’s ability to produce fashionable visual displays and creative retail marketing that generates interest and increases sales. Designers suggest that you decorate demographically to appeal to your customer base. When presenting products that accentuate your theme of choice, holiday merchandising can simply mean artistically crafting small touches to make your customers feel special. Christmas continues to be a traditional holiday. Some fashion items should be incorporated into the merchandising mix, but essential elements continue to be santas, angels, snowmen and elves. Package designers and trend analysts state that styles and motifs reminiscent of fun childhood days are going to be significant this year. Retro-styling with festive splashes of red and green comfort Baby Boomers and Generation Xers alike, bringing back memories of home for Boomers and Grandma’s house for Xers. Additionally, for your clientele celebrating the Festival of Lights, it is nearly impossible to think about Hanukkah in America without feeling overshadowed by Christmas decorations and merchandising. As appropriate to your trading area, designate display space to integrate holiday gifts appropriately wrapped for Hanukkah gift giving.

Here are just a few products that might stimulate your display and merchandising initiative:

Harney & Sons Fine Teas (Salisbury, Connecticut) offers black tea spiced with citrus, almond, clove and cinnamon. Loose Holiday Tea comes in a red metal tin with a special holiday label, and Holiday Blend teabags come in a festive red box. The newest addition to this line-up is Tagalong Tin of Holiday Tea, which makes a perfect stocking stuffer. There also a bag of 50 Holiday Tea sachets. These are the same sachets which are packaged in the Tagalong, but in bulk quantity.

Coffee Masters (Spring Grove, Illinois) offers festive red berries with green holly to accent the gleaming gold potful packets of Coffee Masters’ specialty coffee in the new Christmas Coffee Collection Gift Tote. Each collection contains 5 potful packets of Coffee Masters’ most popular Holiday flavors; Holiday Magic Blend, Christmas Cookie, Toasted Chestnut Creme, Caramel Kiss and Spice Butter Rum. With a suggested retail of $8.50, this gift tote is perfect for a hostess, teacher, secretary, or anyone on your holiday gift list.

The Rosemary Company (Adrian, Missouri) is presenting a personalized Holiday Tea Favor with Caddy. This personalized teabag is paired with a white porcelain teapot-shaped caddy. Provide a name and/or date and create a little Christmas magic. Choose red, evergreen or white ribbon; red, evergreen or black ink for personalization. Teabag packaging is approximately 3.25” x 2.75”, tea caddy is 4.75” x 3.5”. Minimum order of 20, must be ordered in multiples of four (example: 20, 24, 28, etc.).

New Venture Group (Columbia, Maryland) offers Colorful Ceramic Coffee Coins to spread holiday cheer while your customers spread your store’s name. These “coins” work like a gift certificate but in a much more presentable form, and are personalized with your shop’s name. Great as stocking stuffers or Hanukah gelt, they make unique holiday gifts. For an extra special touch, partner these coins with the company’s drawstring organza gift bags and a few coffee beans. A true joy of gift giving, you’ll be rewarded with lots of new customers!

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Tea & Coffee - July/August, 2004

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