by Donald Clark

Courtesy of The Crafts Report
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I am a new gallery owner and this holiday season will be my first. How do I navigate the schedule and get maximum return on seasonal products? - Danielle Annie Park

Timing is everything when it comes to seasonal merchandise. One day after the holiday, it's not going to sell for much more than 50 percent of the full retail price. When we had the shop, this was a constant struggle that impacts not just holiday-specific merchandise, but also the larger inventory of regular merchandise brought in for the fourth quarter.

You're going into this season without any sales history to guide you. Hopefully, you use a Point of Purchase system that will record all sales by department. If not, perhaps your register has enough departments so you can ring items into the department you have assigned them. This information will be invaluable when it's time to establish "open to buys" for the next season. Actually, as you accumulate this information, you can use it to establish your buying budget for the year.

Back to this year, though. This is a project for a calendar. I used large monthly pages taped to the wall so I could think quarterly. I could see the flow of the weeks and establish a countdown and decide when to put goods out, when to emphasize specific products, and when to plan on a clearance sale. Each year, the big players push holiday displays forward until, at this point, Christmas and Halloween collide. We "creatives" know that orange and red and green are not great together. I'd suggest you have product on the floor two weeks before Thanksgiving. This lets you familiarize your staff with the new goods and to tweak displays, as needed, and be ready to go the weekend after Thanksgiving when the buying fever typically sets in. You will also be able to engage browsers, and they're really at it this time of year. Hopefully, they'll see things they will return to purchase.

There is definitely a pattern to the buying cycles. At the outset, you'll see the above-mentioned serious browsers who have to see everything available before making decisions. Gift buying begins early, as does the purchase of greeting cards. Sales of decorations and holiday-specific merchandise kick in as the holiday gets closer. A few days before the holiday, you'll get the last-minute crew, heavily weighted toward men, who will purchase nearly anything to get it over with. And then on the first open day after the holiday, the bargain hunters are out in force. It was always profitable for us to have the markdowns ready on that day; and we knew that within a day or two, the push would be over.

"Awareness of buying patterns in general and your customers' buying patterns will let you tailor your promotional plan to insure the most profitable season. You'll want to use digital, print and perhaps even radio to get the word out." Donald Clark

Awareness of buying patterns in general and your customers' buying patterns will let you tailor your promotional plan to insure the most profitable season. You'll want to use digital, print, and perhaps even radio to get the word out. You'll have to tailor this to best fit your perception of your customers' use of the media. Use your wall calendar to determine when to talk about what in the media. Don't forget to use signage in the gallery to promote items and to announce what's coming up. And lastly, if you feel you may have too much holiday merchandise, or general merchandise that hasn't sold well, consider reducing it for the last few days before the holiday. Taking 20 percent off sure beats 50 percent.

The explosive demand for iPads and other electronic devices has set the communications world afire. Emails seem to have burned away the need for postal letters. Is this an end of the print marketing model?

Are print marketing materials still relevant in today’s digital environment? If so, when is it most effective to invest in print marketing materials? Thomas Martin

You bet. Today's consumer is constantly being bombarded with e-mails, e-blasts, and social-media hits these days. Digital media is so effective at getting the word out that printed marketing materials have almost totally been overshadowed. And there is little or no cost for the use of the Internet. You may have noticed that your favorite newspaper or magazine is thinner than it used to be.

I'm thinking a course correction may be in the making. People are getting so much e-mail that they are either blocking unknown senders or deleting much of what they receive. So let's consider how you might use print along with digital options to position your brand and promote your product.

It has always been advisable to use as many approaches as you can to inform the consumer. In the olden days--oh, 30 years ago--we believed that a viewer had to see a print ad three times before it began to have an impact. Perhaps I could rephrase that and say a viewer has to see the information in three places.

Since most print materials cost money, it's particularly important to make good choices about where to spend your money. It's always wise to inform your customers anytime you're having a studio sale, or a show--be it in a gallery, shop, or craft fair. Especially at a craft fair. The promoters will sell the fair, but they can't sell each exhibitor. Instead, that's your job. I suggest that in addition to digital listings, you send your information to the appropriate print publications to either be used for an editorial piece or listed in the calendar.

This is also the time to print a card that you mail to the customers on your list to let them know where you'll be. If cost is a concern, how about printing a card with a great image on one side and blank except for return address and image caption on the other? Remember, the more pieces you print, the less expensive the cards will be. Buy printable labels and use your computer to add the information about the specific event. This will allow you to customize the card each time you use it. The presence of an artist card on the refrigerator or desk is a constant reminder to go shopping. The bottom line is, they can't purchase it if they don't know where to find it.

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