Maximizing Graduation Sales: Helping Customers Create the Perfect Gift

By Majda Rensberger, OneCoast Contributing Editor

Retailer1While still a few months away, the excitement about the upcoming Graduations is already buzzing through the community of Grosse Pointe Woods in Michigan. With two major high schools and state colleges to serve, Graduation is an important gift giving occasion and for Small Favors, a specialty gift store, a big opportunity to increase their spring and summer business. 

“Small Favors has been a labor of love, slowly growing and changing during the course of five years and finally finding its way to our new store location in April 2010,” says Betsy Enders, Co-Owner.

Their business began five years ago with the idea to create party favors that were cute and inexpensive. Specializing mostly in local corporate favors, Small Favors operated their business out of a basement office space.  Over the next five years they were doing local gift shows with various clubs and organizations in the community getting more exposure as a gift business. They learned a lot about the gift market and  buying for retail and “with all of the positive feedback from customers, we started thinking that our business might have potential outside of the basement and decided to open a retail gift boutique,” says Kasey Malley, Co- Owner. 

Retailer2Today, Small Favors is a fun, bright specialty gift store that not only sells unique gifts but also helps customers create that special gift ready to go.

“Graduation is really big here and for our business extremely important,” says Betsy. When a mom comes in to shop, she is not only buying for her son or daughter but also her daughter’s six best girlfriends.”  Like Christmas on a smaller scale, Graduation calls for multiple gift purchases. It’s an occasion that a majority of the community is a part of and giving it a special focus in your store will ensure a stronger spring business.

Bringing out your Graduation early will get customers thinking about Graduations and potentially secure early sales. Small Favors starts promoting Graduation before Easter and continues all the way through July. To position themselves as the Graduation gift giving destination, Small Favors attends the local high school spring benefit, a fashion show with boutiques, to showcase their graduation gift products. This gives them great exposure to both parents and teenagers in the community looking for gift ideas but also creates a stronger relationship with this important segment.  “We make sure that we are always visible at events like that,” says Kasey. “Both high schools also do all night graduation parties and moms that organize it approach us to donate gifts and prizes. We always do that to make them feel that we are part of their graduation and community.”

In addition to high school events, Small Favors also advertises in both schools’ newspapers. It’s an inexpensive way to reach your primary market when it comes to Graduation but also builds your brand with the younger market.

All For Color Small Hamper | SKU TCNF6611

All For Color Small Hamper | SKU TCNF6611

Getting Creative

“One of the reasons our customers love us is that they know we’ll go above and beyond for them” says Betsy.  “They come to us for ideas on creating a unique gift. “What can be my gift?” is what we focus on with each customer. That means that we put together a gift presentation that can include items bought in our boutique as well as items they’ve brought in.” Small Favors truly creates a gift ready to go, specially created and wrapped for one unique individual.

“One of our customer’s favorite grad gifts is the laundry bag…,” says Kasey. “We had the customer bring in a bottle of detergent and a roll of quarters that we put inside the bag. To make it extra fun, we had the customer print and laminate laundry instructions that we tied to the laundry bag as the finishing touch.”  This is an example of a creative gift that tells a story and is made for one specific person.  It goes beyond the product itself and captures the true spirit of customer service at its best. It also gives you the opportunity to use products in your store in different ways and for different reasons. “This truly is our point of differentiation and it creates a great sense of loyalty with our customers.”

All For Color Spa Wrap | SKU SW6815

All For Color Spa Wrap | SKU SW6815

“We love graduation gifts that go beyond graduation like laundry bags or bath wraps,” says Kasey.  Often times you can create a graduation display with items you already carry by simply showcasing them in a new way and giving them a different reason to be bought. Small Favors uses a round table located in the center of the store to create themed displays based on holiday or occasion. Their Graduation display is a burst of color that catches the eye and gives the customers gift ideas at a glance.

Retailer4Special occasions bring along special sales increases in the retail business and deserve a special focus. “Any time there is an occasion, we see our business increase,” says Betsy.  Graduation specifically gives you the opportunity to not only have a strong spring business but to create an image with the high school and college community that have a strong impact on your current and future business. So celebrate this important occasion with your customers by helping them create memorable and creative gifts that they will be proud to give.