A Celebration of Accomplishments – Graduation Event

Thinking about hosting a graduation event?  Year after year, there are plenty of graduates ready to make their mark in the world.  That means many opportunities for your store to help their friends and families with their gift giving needs.

Before you get started, think about the merchandise in your store that is grad appropriate and giftable. The best part?  Graduates are usually just starting out and need EVERYTHING!  So, there’s a broad range of products that can be highlighted and promoted for this occasion.

Here are 10 more tips to help you with all the pomp and circumstance of a graduation event!

  1.  Make your party FUN!!!  “Oh, the Places you’ll Go!”
    • Borrow your theme from an American favorite, Dr. Seuss.  This great book is advice in rhyme for proceeding in life, weathering fear and being in charge of your actions. Have some fun with it. One line from the book that is especially identifiable and sets the tone and spirit of your event is- “Congratulations! Today is your day! You’re off to great places! You’re off and away!”
    • Post quotes from the book throughout your store and especially in the ‘grad gift’ areas of your store.  Use images and ideas from the book to decorate- street signs pointing in different directions with many choices, etc.
    • Go all out- from the minute you walk in the door to the last impression at your cash wrap, let’s make sure it is evident to all who enter that there is something special happening!
      • Don’t forget to set the scene at the entrance- a sign on the door, announcing your store as Graduation Headquarters or Gifts for Grads Central.
      • Decorate around the theme – the party store has everything imaginable in your theme- from streamers and cutouts to balloons.
      • Snap photos of your guests for Facebook.
  2.  Music:
      The music should reflect your theme, and there is nothing more inspiring than going out on your own and starting life as an adult, on your own. Here are some suggestions:

    • School’s Out- Alice Cooper
    • I will Remember you- Sarah McLachlan
    • (Good Riddance) Time of your Life- Green Day
    • This is the Night- Clay Aiken
    • Hey Ya!- Outkast
    • I will be There for You- Jessica Andrews
    • We are the Champions- Queen
    • A Moment Like This- Kelly Clarkson
    • Turn up the Music- Sammy Hagar
    • Pomp and Circumstance- Graduation march
  3. Drinks & Appetizers:
    • Veggie trays
    • Finger foods and munchies
    • Cupcakes iced in local school colors
    • Fruit Smoothies
    • Hint- Use the serving pieces, paper table ware and tools that you sell when serving your guests.
  4. Giveaway Ideas:
    • Samples of any bath line you carry- contact your local sales rep or the vendor for additional samples for the special day.
    • Oh the Places you’ll go! By Dr. Seuss
    • Check out your local dollar store or party store for inexpensive inspiration and fun give-aways
  5. Prize Drawings:
    • A trip to a local spa or salon (coordinate with a local spa, in return for free advertising) – Think pampered grads!
    • A gift basket with everything imaginable for the grad- travel bath accessories, bath wrap, dorm décor items, luggage tags, stationery and cards, writing accessories.
    • Free makeover with a local make-up artist- a ‘grown-up’ look for the grad.
    • Free hair salon visit, color consultation
    • An hour with a style consultant- ask the business to donate in return for free advertising in your store
    • Gift cards to your store for their next stop in– ALWAYS promote a repeat visit!
  6. Promotions:
    • Promote all things for grads in your store.  It isn’t too early to think about all spring getaway needs, Mother’s Day AND grads.
    • Promote gifts for every person on your list- students, teachers, and all the women in your life. Group together products by interest, personal taste, and budget.
    • Pull displays together by price point and by theme.  Promote ‘grad appropriate’ gifts.
    • If you do personalization- offer free with purchase.  Perfect grad gifts.
    • Offer free gift wrap AND delivery with a minimum purchase.  Think personalized, pampering service.
    • Reward this buyer with ‘Buy More, Save More’ deals.
    • Give a discount on multiple buys and complementary items- Buy two regular priced items, receive a third free (equal or less value)
      • Buy two, get one free accomplishes two goals- You move product and your customers benefit from the great buys.  You create a ‘customer for life’ with deals and legendary service.
  7. Something Extra Special:
    • Think about graduate’s specific needs- school financing, scholarships, travel means to get to school. Consider bringing in a local school advisor, counselor or expert in financing.
    • Does your store do engraving? Offer a discount on graduation announcements, or graduation party invitations.
    • Do hourly drawings with either in store gift cards or services donated by local businesses with the grad in mind- local spa, car wash, café, resume service, free oil change.
    • Offer valet parking, with the tips going toward a local cause or charity.
  8. Marketing- e-Blasts, on your FB page, flyers, or paper invitations:
    • Start by posting your upcoming event plans on your store’s Facebook page and homepage of your website
    • Create buzz by asking your customers what their favorite graduation memory was on fb.
    • Create event flyers and insert them into every customer’s bag at purchase for two weeks minimum before the event.
    • Send an e-mail blast to your customer base inviting them to the event with a special offer for them and a friend (Great word of mouth advertising and you could double your traffic.)
    • Ask them to print the eblast and bring to the event or mention the invitation to be eligible for a special discount, treat, gift, etc.  This allows you to track the effectiveness of your emarketing.
    • Post your event on Community Bulletin Board and your local hot spots
      • Local Coffee Shops
      • Local Restaurants
      • Local food markets
      • Kid’s gyms & karate schools- anywhere the lady of the house is sure to see your advertisement.
    • Invite the local media to your event
    • Phone your BEST customers a week before the event and extend a personal invitation to these special buyers.
    • Partner up with a charity:
      • Any women’s or children’s charity
      • An educational cause would work well with your graduation theme
      • Local food shelter- give a discount or gift to anyone that brings non-perishable food to donate at the event.
      • Connect with anything local that may be a focus in your community.
      • HINT: Tying your event to a charity can give you great PR. Inform your local TV channels, newspapers, radio stations and invite them to your event.
  9. Set Your Event Apart:
    • Don’t forget the everyday gift giving needs that we all must buy for- birthdays, births, showers, and weddings. These occasions are ‘recession proof’. Be ready with your ‘silent sales person’ – the beautiful displays you put together.
    • If your store gift wraps, be sure you are ready with gift appropriate wrapping paper for all the possibilities.  Think about offering free gift wrap on event day.  Or free with a minimum purchase.
  10. Keep in mind these best practices from the experts:
    • Offer a special or promotion, to get the foot traffic in the door.
    • Market your event heavily- GET THE WORD OUT!
    • And last thing, Offer a rain date alternative for any specials or promotions.

And, that’s 10 tips to help make your graduation event a success!