Independent Retailers: Offer the Unique and Personal to Boost Holiday Sales

While pumpkins, scarecrows and mums dot our fall landscape and we continue to enjoy brisk autumn days, it will be only a few short weeks before retailers are in the thick of the important holiday shopping season.  This period – which can account for 25 – 30% of annual sales – is crucial to retailers, particularly small, independent stores that face deep discounting and greater inventories from their larger competitors.

There are a number of steps independent retailers can take to boost their holiday sales, capitalize on their strengths and differentiate themselves from the competition.  While customers enjoy having choices, the endless options presented by merchants can be confusing, overwhelming and impersonal.  Independent retailers have an opportunity to capitalize on this by highlighting unique merchandise, emphasizing personal customer service and demonstrating the true sentiments of the season.  Presenting a well-edited selection of distinctive items can be a powerful attraction to shoppers who are overwhelmed by a mind boggling array of choices.  In the case of holiday shopping, more is not necessarily better.

The Rhode Island Small Business Development Center (RISBDC) at Johnson & Wales University (JWU), works with many local retailers and reached out to Dr. Melanie St. Jean, fashion and retail professor in the marketing department at the College of Business and RISBDC consultant, for some ideas to boost holiday sales.  She provided the following tips:

  1. Purchase and display items that are unique.  The consumer does not want to see the same thing over and over again.  Select an item to display that is handmade, local or offers a connection to the local culture.
  2. Partner with a local artist allowing your store to act as a backdrop to their “gallery night” opening.  This enables both your customers and the artist’s clients to see that you are invested in your community.
  3. Invite one of the designers or sales reps to come to the store for a private showing or trunk show, offering one-of-a-kind designs.
  4. Offer special shopping nights for men, women and children. When a customer feels that they have been privately invited to a “special” shopping event, it encourages a sense of exclusivity.
  5. Sponsor a charity night. Donate a percentage of your store sales to a local charity in the community and allow customers to make outside donations.
  6. Offer gift wrapping.  Ask a local senior citizens group, Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop to wrap for your customers. This added touch saves the customer time by relieving them of a tedious activity.

These are just a few of the many things that the independent shop owner can do to generate sales for the holiday season and to continue building the client base throughout the year.  It’s all about giving back to the community that supports your business during the rest of the year by offering unique merchandise and more personalized service. Consumers remember good will — it is how the retail industry was founded and going back to one’s roots is always well received.

Happy Holidays!

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