Be a PR Star: Bright Ideas to Help You Shine

Public Relations Strategies for Holiday Sales
Updated October 18, 2013
The fundamentals of effective public relations and publicity strategies don’t change.  But the holiday season generates unmatched opportunities for retailers to leverage the natural news cycle.
From mid-November through early January, retail sales and holiday gift giving are central topics for the media, providing endless options for pitching holiday stories.
Think about it.  Holiday sales and hiring projections make national news headlines.  Each national, regional and local outlet offers gift ideas, shopping tips, deals, steals and must haves.  Bloggers and shopping gurus profess to be the experts on hot selling items and are chock full of gift-giving advice.
Put together a strategy now that will make you a sought after resource for your local press.
Solve a Problem
Think about ways to offer “solutions” for readers/viewers by making shopping easier, more affordable or more fun.    Here are ideas to consider:
  • Prestige – Do you have exclusive brands or products that consumers can’t find in your area?  Talk about them.  Is your gift wrap distinctive?  Send gifts to local TV or radio celebrities to highlight your signature style.  Do you have someone on your staff that always suggests the perfect gift?  Make that associate available for interviews or suggest a “gift challenge” column.  Readers can write in their challenges and your associate can make suggestions and ultimately drive customers to your door.
  • Practicality – Don’t underestimate the value of convenience as an amenity, especially during the busy holiday shopping season.  If you sell products that are pre-wrapped and ready to give, pitch these as suggestions for last minute gifts.  Does your store pack and ship or offer free gift wrap?  Those services are huge time savers for time-strapped shoppers and make perfect fodder for consumer reporters.
  • Price – In the current economic environment, consumers will continue to seek value.  If you are merchandising gifts at various price points,  make sure you get the word out.  Send a press release with gift suggestions to fit specific budgets,  or show pictures of how to make an inexpensive gift look luxurious.
Develop an initiative that benefits the community
  • Charity Shopping Nights are increasingly popular.  Find a charity that is important to your customers and host a special shopping night to benefit that organization.  Be sure to invite any local celebrities that support that organization including local television anchors and radio personalities.  They will often mention such events on the air.
Make it timely
Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend are huge media opportunities.  Find ways to tie your activities to the natural news cycle and be prepared to talk about your business.  Business reporters will ask about your outlook for this year versus last –sales, inventory levels and hiring.  Be prepared to answer these questions.
Don’t forget……
Be user friendly
Reporters work on deadline, so be easy to reach and respond quickly.  If they can’t reach you, they will move on to the next source.
Know who to contact
Weekly community newspaper:  The Editor (or in some cases the Publisher)
Daily Newspaper:   The Features Editor for fashion gifts, or the Business Editor for stories that have economic impact, like holiday hiring.
Television or Radio Stations:  The News Assignment Editor or Assignment Desk
Calendar Listings are often a “do-it-yourself” exercise.  If you are hosting a holiday shopping event, look for a link on the media outlet’s website and take advantage of controlling the content of your listing.



Brighten the Holidays with Dandy Display Ideas

Welcome to the fourth quarter – where sleep and space are always in short supply!
And while I can’t help much with the retail zombie-ness of October,  November and December … perhaps a few suggestions on how to squeeze a ten pound ham into a five pound can will make up for it!

ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE!  Start early with this mantra and stick with it.  Work daily at unpacking and clearing away empty boxes.  Not only will it make you and your staff get goods out to the floor as soon as possible and re-excite you about the product you forgot you loved in July — but getting rid of all the Styrofoam AND bubble wrap AND cardboard AND peanuts is therapeutic!  It shrinks the overwhelming mountain of shipment into a much more manageable bite-size pile.  Just don’t let it SIT … because it grows bigger and bigger and scarier and scarier every passing hour!  And it is no fun to find candy cane candles in your stockroom on January 1st.

If you don’t HAVE to make a floor fixture adjustment for the holidays, you probably didn’t buy enough! Your store (and maybe your storage unit, garage, car and bathroom!) should be packed out and you should be using every available inch of space for display.  No time for the minimalist approach if you want to make your sales goals.  “Stack it high and watch it fly” is the motto of the season.  Remember customers often buy in multiples for the holidays – they come in armed with lists and they need lots.  You need to be ready with the goods on hand!
So how and where do you eek out more said space?
Never fear — a few simple solutions are here!
And we aren’t going all fancy!  One of the most fabulous ways to add capacity to your store without breaking the bank or creating a storage problem for later on is … wait for it … the folding table.  I know, you are thinking you just wasted ten minutes reading this article for me to tell you to get a folding table!!  But YES — the 6 or 8 foot plastic banquet table from your local warehouse club or Walmart is your friend! Yuck you say?  Exactly.  But listen up.  There are a bunch of different websites online that will whip you up a “custom” fitted table cover for that folding gem.  It will change the whole look!  You choose from a zillion colors, you tell them the size you want, send them your logo artwork (or you can always order it plain to save time and $$), it arrives in the mail (another reason to keep those shipments under control so you’ll be able to find it!) – and voila! – extra space. With flair!  And the best part about a long banquet table with a long fitted tablecloth over it?  The extra unseen bonus space underneath.  Let me know if you can’t find anything to put there!  Take another tip and always choose the “fitted” style – it slips right over your table, customers won’t trip over it, it doesn’t slide around, it’s machine washable and it wads into a ball to store it for next year!!  Fitted table covers run about $75 for plain (no logo) and $150 for a custom imprint. Yikes. But I promise you will use that table cover a thousand times over – for additional clearance space, an open house event later in the year, a sidewalk sale … you name it! You will love it so much you will want a cover in every color for every season!
So with table purchased and table cover ordered zero in on any other random tables, shelving units or racks you may have taken off the floor and hidden away for the summer. You know that cubbie in the stockroom holding the microwave … you’re gonna need it!  Next, rework your normal floor plan to tighten things up and fit in the temporary additions.  Don’t forget to pull a table or two up close to the register and cash wrap – customers waiting in line always want something to look at and something to buy last minute!
Next decide how you can group like items and corral them together effectively on or near your main displays.  Think about and look for inexpensive vessels you can use on the floor:

Clear acrylic ice tubs, small trash cans (bathroom or office size) or umbrella stands hold rolls of wrapping paper, bows, stocking stuffers and Christmas ornaments.

Shallow glass candle holders or vases (look for long, low ones) filled with colored crystals, salt or small marbles display spreaders, bottle toppers or small items.

Styrofoam blocks – approximately 6” square – are great for cocktail forks, open stock spreaders, bottle openers, pens or anything else that can be stabbed into the foam.  It looks “icy” so it’s perfect for winter and holiday themes.

Another trick?  Suggest the gift!  Pre-box and holiday wrap several products you consider key items. No need to keep them in the stockroom.  Instead stack them behind or underneath the exposed merchandise.  Create a whole table of “Grab and Go!”  Just add a fresh ribbon and a tag at checkout and your customer is one happy camper.

Command hooks are your friend.  The side of any table or small wall can become additional display space with a simple Command hook.  They are invaluable for holiday stockings, tote bags, hand towels gift bags and ornaments.

Ribbon is not just for packages anymore! Find a 1” festive pattern or color, make a great bow and attach a long strip of that ribbon to a wall or to the side of a display table.  Then use it to clip hair holiday bows and accessories.  It will keep them neat and orderly AND show them off!  Use near a cash register or anywhere outside of the normal “Baby” area as a great impulse item.
Every store needs a Christmas Tree – but since it takes up space, make it work for you.  Consider trimming it with slippers or hand towels rolled and poked in between branches, cosmetic bags, wallets, small boxed items, dog toys, mugs, baby socks – anything goes!  Light it up if you can and it will be festive, fun and fabulous!
Whatever your game plan this crazy, hectic season, do make sure to set aside just a little bit of space and time away from the chaos to enjoy your friends and family!  Remember you can sleep in January!

5 Last-Minute Event Ideas to Drive More Holiday Sales

With Christmas less than 90 days away, it is time to kick your holiday marketing plans into full gear.  Even if you have already planned your holiday marketing calendar, it is not too late to add in a few easy events to drive more traffic and sales for the season.

Here are five cost-effective holiday events that you can add to your plan:

1.  Holiday gourmet food event with sampling. Food sampling attracts customers who love a free sample, enjoy cooking or who gift gourmet products.  In a recent study conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation, purchases rose from 11% to 52% among customers who attended an event. Consider getting creative with your gourmet food sampling event. You might partner with a local chef to prepare some of the food samples using products from the store. You can compensate the chef by offering a store gift certificate, donating a gift basket that they can give to one of their customers, or by allowing them to distribute brochures for their catering business during your event.
2.  Pet photos with Santa. According to the ASPCA, approximately 62% of US households have a pet. Pet owners are very passionate about their furry friends. Why not offer the opportunity for your customers with pets to bring them to the store for a free photo with Santa. You might also consider offering a prize for the best photo. Even if you don’t sell pet products at your store, an increase in store traffic almost always equates to higher store sales. For this event, you might want to partner with a local photographer or a college student majoring in graphic design or photography who might be off of school for the month of December.
3.  Holiday tree decorating class. Customers are always looking for fresh new ways to trim their holiday tree. Partner with a local floral designer who can come in and provide innovative ways to turn the tree from drab to fab using most of their existing ornaments as a base. Consider handing out exclusive store coupons for those who participate in the class this is a great way to reward your customers for coming into the store and participating plus it will also help you make more sales.
4.  Holiday caroling. Partner with your local high school chorus to offer a special night of holiday caroling in the store. Not only will the parents of the students stop by the store to support their children, but also many will also end up making a holiday purchase as well.
5.  Partner with local merchants to create a special holiday shopping night. If your store is located in a downtown area or in close proximity to other stores, considering working with other merchants to cross promote a special holiday night out for residents such as a downtown luminaries lighting, tree lighting, or cookie sampling. Each merchant can distribute flyers for the event and you may even want to consider a co-op advertisement and mailing to market the event.
Patricia Norins is the founder and publisher of two national trade magazines and two trade shows. Specialty Retail Report, the voice of the specialty retail industry (carts, kiosks and temporary in-line stores) has a readership of more than 75,000 and GIFT SHOP, the magazine for independent gift shop owners, has a readership of more than 80,000. She also serves as spokesperson for Small Business Saturday, a national initiative to encourage consumers to shop locally, and is an internationally renowned speaker who focuses on delivering savvy business strategies to help retailers grow their businesses effectively and inexpensively.