Get creative with holiday celebrations to keep customers interested year-round

MARIA ZAMPINI | February 18, 2014 – as seen in gardencenter

It may be cold and snowy in much of the country, but happily the days are growing longer and we are headed toward the busiest time of the year. Besides spring, seasonal holidays are the most critical events in our retail world. They naturally should be a catalyst for increased traffic and consequently healthier sales. What they shouldn’t be is stale and boring.

There are time-honored holidays this time of year like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day. Now, when it comes to holiday classics, ask yourself: Do you offer your customers essentially the same thing year after year or do you try and kick it up a notch?

For instance, a dozen red roses are the floral gift of choice for Valentine’s Day. But what if you also had a multitude of colors to choose from along with a sign stating the meaning of each color? Or what if you had one of those thermometer type charts, like they use for fundraising, only in this case on one end of the spectrum stated you were in good standing with your better half and the other end indicated you were in the doghouse. The more you were in trouble, the more roses, flowers, chocolates or gifts you needed to buy to try and get back in your loved ones good graces. The point being: have fun with it and perhaps increase the amount of dollars per transaction.

Once again, Easter falls late in the year so there is a large gap between it and Valentine’s Day. From my experience in the Midwest, the later Easter is and the closer to the spring season it occurs, the weaker the sales boost it provides.

To help things along, we used to host an Herb Fair in early March at our family’s garden center. Festivities included herbs to buy, herb related gift items, herb-themed gourmet foods to sample, hands-on herb crafts to make, educational sessions on cooking and preserving herbs and more.

By March people were itching for spring to come and to get their hands dirty. Herbs are a relatively easy windowsill plant, are light on the wallet and something customers could take home and immediately put to use. They could keep it alive indoors until it could be planted outside to thrive.

In addition to the popular holidays, have you considered what other celebrations or occasions you might capitalize on? What about March Madness? Not only can you encourage consumers to buy plants or flowers designating their favorite teams’ colors and setting the tone for their game day parties, you could turn it into a sales contest that creates a good natured atmosphere for both employees and customers. Split your sales staff in two, each side taking on the identity of one of the teams, set rules and goals, keep a score board, the leading team and perhaps one customer winning a pizza party for game day. Cross promote the event at your store and at the pizza parlor that will be providing the free pizza pies.

Now, how much do you really know about your customer and store location demographics? Does your geographic locale have a high population of certain ethnic or religious groups? Which holidays, plants, statuary, flags, etc. are important to them?

If your garden center remains open year-round, the number of sales or special events you can think of to utilize, in particular during the slower winter and early spring months, is only limited by your imagination. Look beyond the usual holidays and create excitement with new traditions or bizarre and little-known holidays. You can find inspiration from http://holidayinsights.com or www.brownielocks.com. It may be too late to plan winter activities now, but it is never too late to plan for the rest of this year and next year.

Maria Zampini is president of Upshoot LLF and Director of Plant Development and Ornamental Program Manager for the HGTV HOME Plant Collection.



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