Boosting Holiday Sales

March 06, 2008
Written by Brian Minter
The Christmas season should now be well underway, but it’s time to check all the potential opportunities we just might be missing.  The more reasons we can provide customers to make repeat visits to our store, the more profitable this important season can become. 
The Christmas season should now be well underway, but it’s time to check all the potential opportunities we just might be missing.  The more reasons we can provide customers to make repeat visits to our store, the more profitable this important season can become.  

Let’s start with the not so obvious stuff.  One trend still growing is unique giftware, and to play this game well, all your purchasing should have been done last January in Toronto, Atlanta, Dallas or overseas.  It’s important to differentiate and broaden your lines to include Gen X and Y.  Humour is hot, and decorative cushions that say ‘Dear Santa, Let Me Explain’ or doormats that say ‘Nice Underwear’ are in.  Funky trees that light up, earrings that sparkle and light, and T-shirts with cheeky Christmas statements are great as gifts or personal purchases.  The reality is it’s a world that’s ‘all about me.’  Framed Christmas pictures and wall hangings are nice because they are quick and easy Christmas décor.  The ‘boxes’ do a great job of the traditional stuff, but we need to get well beyond that.  Remember:  humour is entertainment, so humourize the place.

There are areas that we can improve dramatically in the outdoor greens department.  We all have fresh boughs, wreaths and garland, but do we value add them?  Glitter and glue should be your best friends at this time of year.  Glitter as much as you can and sell the glitter for those who wish to do-it-themselves.   Ordinary spray glitter is commonplace – you need big, bold glitter in all colours and spray glue to help it stick.  Well-made bows in designer colours are also hot and can be a wonderful profit centre.  A false home front with steps, railings and patio, fabulously themed and decorated to inspire and educate, will go a long way.  Outdoor vases done up with contorted willow, twiggy dogwoods, berries, unique grasses galore, cones and moss will create the outdoor décor centre your customers can’t find anywhere else.  There’s huge potential and margins here.

The ‘little tree’ department is a real sleeper.  Four-inch Alberta spruce, hardy hollies, colourful evergreens and conifers are a must.  Isley’s Nursery in Oregon has done this for years now for spring by packaging them as a unique specialty item. They make great gifts, especially for miniature railroad enthusiasts, container gardeners and lovers of small bonsai. They also make great table decorations if glittered and dressed up.  Along with them, sell trough gardens, rock planters and funky pots.

For the artistically challenged out there, a little help goes a long way.  In your cool rooms have pre-started green arrangements with fragrant Christmas greens, berries and a candle so all folks have to do over the holiday season is add a few flowers.  Dutch designers create amazing arrangements using unique cones, twisted stems, bark, specialty greens and very nice tapered candles.  These stand up well and can even be used in entryways.  Along with the finished and pre-started products, sell oasis, containers, candles, specialty greens, berries and unique cones.  This is a classic case where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

The fall bulb season is not over.  Packaged as Christmas gifts, they will make a great present for January planting.  Keep them cool and they will last into January.  Some innovative growers in New York are pre-planting blends of snowdrops, crocus, mini-daffodils, grape hyacinths and tulips in waterlily containers and selling them with colour pictures as a plantable unit.  They would certainly spice up your cool sales area.

Paperwhites and all specialty forced narcissus are still hot, as are amaryllis.  They need to be pre-started in fancy ceramic or glass vases and sold from floral coolers.  With value adds like contorted willow and tiny, tiny crystal marbles, they look fabulous and offer a whole new dimension of fresh sales opportunities.

Cut Christmas trees may or may not work for you, but there is a growing market for small trees.  Outdoor rooms and patios are pretty much the outdoor living space for many folks today, and two to five narrow cut trees have a potential niche.  They can go indoors or out, are easy to carry and dispose of, easy to decorate and look great on a patio or coffee table.  They can also be value added with lights, outdoor decorations and tree toppers.

Poinsettias provide one of the most immediate opportunities for increased sales through value adding.  The X/Y generations love bling, and the new poinsettia painting trend is huge.  One garden centre in New York employed a full-time painter who created extraordinary artistic poinsettias by paint layering.  Learning the ‘art’ of this new concept is what it’s all about – it’s not just spray painting one colour.  Make sure you have lots of white poinsettias on order for painting.  Six-inch poinsettias have become both a commodity and a pricing football, so it’s very important to differentiate and value add.  Planting poinsettias in cool ceramics and funky containers, adding lots of glitter sticks, curly willow and tiny twigs and glittering everything is very much a part of the Christmas ‘schtick.’  Going very large and very small in sizes and carrying the widest selection of varieties as possible will make you the ‘go to’ place for poinsettias.

From our experience, pushing the Christmas envelope in many different directions provides the greatest opportunity to increase customer count and sales.  Innovation and imagination are the keys to Christmas success.  Take some risks, be outrageous, and you’re on the way to becoming remarkable.

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