It’s time for mistletoe, holly and merchandising

By Denise Walsh, Strategic Campus Advisor, Campus Advisory Services

As we closeout the month of October, it’s time to shift our thinking toward the end of the semester and the holidays. Ready your store for a successful holiday season with these merchandising best practices and marketing tips!

Get into the spirit early. There are fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Now is the time to start thinking about your holiday merchandising plans, and the store should be set by the second week in November at the latest.

Energize the shopping experience. Make shopping fun for customers by hosting a VIP night. Everyone can be a VIP – the goal is simply to make customers feel special. Consider offering refreshments and free prizes. Hosting a faculty/staff appreciation event is also a great way to making the bookstore a destination. Offering promotions on select products, a coupon drawing upon entering the store and refreshments to faculty and staff members customizes the event specifically for them.

Create a gift table. (Or two, if space allows.) Make sure the table tells a story to help the customer make selections. Theme ideas could be: gifts for $25 or less; stocking stuffers or gifts for mom; dad and family members. Tables should be in key display area within the store, not immediately upon entering, and signage should make clear what the table features.

Be intentional about signage. Signage should add to your holiday merchandising tables or displays, not detract by creating clutter or unnecessary busyness. Chalkboard signage is an ideal solution. It’s customizable and won’t distract from the product itself. Plus, it’s easy to find a size that will fit about any space, including on a table.

Make an entrance. Entice customers into the store by creating excitement at the entrance. Set up a feature table or display that’s tasteful and gives a product introduction. Be sure the display is seven to 15-feet into the store, so customers don’t walk right past it or feel crowded when they enter, and note that this should be different than the gift table.

Less is more. Keep windows and displays clean and decluttered. It’s easy to over decorate for the holidays, which can be distracting and block customers from seeing into the store. Make sure patrons can see past decorations and allow the merchandise to speak for itself.

Engage customers on social channels. The end of the semester and start of holiday season is the perfect time to be carefree on social media. Create buzz with a social game that entices customers into the store. Offer a prize for the shopper who finds the hidden elf or gnome. Feature gift ideas and holiday promotions often.

Give customers a hand. Psychologically, if a customer’s hands are full, they’ll be done shopping. Offer shoppers a basket for their merchandise or offer to hold their products at the register. This also offers a way to engage with customers besides asking if they’re finding everything.

Monitor sales data. Check in regularly to detect fast and slow sellers. If there’s time, reorder merchandise selling quickly and ensure all stock is on the sales floor. If the product is selling out, replace that floor space with other products where more inventory is available. For slow sellers, find new space to increase visibility and potential sales and consider a social post to boost interest. If sales don’t increase after product placement has changed, consider running a promotion. And most importantly, be flexible on pricing and nimble about promotions.

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