Last-Minute Tactics for Better Holiday Sales and Beyond

Despite the dismal state of the economy—and despite all your natural tendencies—now is not the time to let a foxhole mentality set in. You can still influence this year’s holiday sales for the better, and you can also stack the deck in your favor for the start of 2009. Here are some last-minute ideas gleaned from the recent JCK webinar to help make this the best season it can be.

Make a careful review of your inventory and what is still to be delivered between now and Valentine’s Day. Identify your best values and your best perceived-value products and then meet with your advertising agency rep and your Web master and designer, and feature these products in some simple trifold ready-to-mail flyers. Lead with your best values. Trot out your best brand names if you carry any signature products. This is the time to get past the basics and the cheap and cheery. Give your customers the chance to maximize their hard-earned and pinched (at least mentally and emotionally) discretionary income.

Talk to sales reps for the top five radio stations in your market and ask each to come back to you with a combined buy that flights your commercials to run in a quilt-work pattern between now and Jan. 10, 2009. Pick the best three or four offers and then begin to run spots for three or four days on one station and then two to three days on another. Overlap the schedules so you are on a couple of stations at the same time, but not for more than a day or two at a time. Create the sense that you are everywhere in the holiday period. Ask the stations for bonus spots, a few overnight commercials, and some lead-in bumpers (where the disc jockey mentions the store and brands before the commercial runs).

Each week, run a promotion that features a station giving away a piece of jewelry. This is even better if an on-air personality—for example, a female DJ, traffic reporter, or newscaster—has been wearing, enjoying, and talking about it in the bumpers all week. You also can try bartering with the stations to have the value of the jewelry count toward your ad/promotion value. If you’re submitting for co-op, however, be sure it meets the manufacturer’s preapproval and will be reimbursed.

Do a quick television ad and run it on your local cable stations. Use the same checkerboard flighting principle that you used for radio, and sync it up in one communications plan. Cable television, like radio, lets you target customers by airing spots at times (and with programming) that take advantage of psychographic and demographic trends.

Finally, once you have set in place a communications blitz, be sure to offer a “bounce back” customer appreciation offer that entitles them to a percentage off their next purchase before Valentine’s Day. Give them a redeemable gift certificate with a clear promotional value and a deadline. To get the certificate—applicable only on cash-and-carry (or credit-and-carry) purchases, not gift certificates—they need to give you their address and e-mail as they register for it at the time of the purchase. You can remind them with a postcard and an e-mail before Feb. 14 to redeem it. This way you’re not discounting your current sale but you are creating repeat business and providing an incentive for customers to redeem their gift cards in the first six weeks of the new year.

What will this achieve? It will give you a modestly priced sales and promotion initiative when most other retailers are hunkering down in the bottom of their foxhole. It will telegraph to your employees that you are not only open for business but also working to make their holiday efforts and results a little brighter. And it will set the stage for moving into 2009 with a running start.