A Holiday Open House with STYLE!

Orignial copy dated 10/11/2011 – Edited October 18, 2013 

It is never too early to get a jump on the holidays!  You want to get out ahead of the competition and start spreading good will and good cheer!  So, put on your Santa’s helper hat and let’s get started! Start early – the first open house of the year always has the potential to get the average buyer thinking ahead and making their holiday shopping list! A GREAT impression at your event can bring the gift shopper back a few times between now and December 25th.


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- the whole world is BUSY and weekends are taken.  HAVE FUN and ENJOY THE PARTY!

Make your party FUN!!!

  • Go all out – from the minute you walk in the door to the last impression at your cash wrap, let’s make it FESTIVE and filled with holiday good cheer!
  • Jingle bells on your front door can greet the guests
  • Don’t forget a wreath or stocking or holiday greeting on your door
  • You can set the scene with red Santa hats on all employees
  • Take pictures of your customers enjoying the festivities and post on your store’s website, Facebook page, newsletter and in the store for everyone to see.
  • Decorate around the theme – Hang paper snowflakes from the ceiling, or silver bells or glittery stars.
  • Pre-wrap gifts and use to decorate your store anywhere you want your guests to think – this would make a great gift!
  • Have Santa or Mrs. Claus greet all who enter!

Music:  The music should reflect your theme. Here are some traditional suggestions:

  • The Drifters “White Christmas”
  • Bing Crosby – “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
  • Frank Sinatra – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
  • Brenda Lee “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”
  • Peggy Lee – “Winter Winterland”
  • Eartha Kitt – “Santa Baby”
  • Vince Guaraldi Trio – Charlie Brown Theme Song
  • Boston Pops – “Sleigh Ride”

Drinks & Appetizers

  • Holiday cookies and decorated cupcakes
  • Peppermint bark candy
  • Holiday Frosted brownies
  • Your favorite cheese ball recipe
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Fresh veggies and dip
  • Festive non-alcoholic punch
  • Mulled Cider
  • Hot cocoa
  • Spice tea
  • Hint- Use the serving pieces, paper table ware and tools you sell when serving your guests.  PLUS…be sure to sample some of your food items that you sell in your store as well.

Give Away ideas

  • Candy canes to all who enter
  • Small cello wrapped party favors tied with festive ribbon – the favor could be filled with small hard candy and treats
  • Miniature stockings filled with Hershey kisses wrapped in red and green foil.
  • A tiny sprig of evergreen tied with a ribbon.

Prize Drawings

  • A giant stocking filled with treats and give-away’s.  Don’t forget to ask all your reps for extras!
  • A trip to a local spa or salon (coordinate with a local spa, in return for free advertizing)
  • A giant potted poinsettia donated by a local florist – in return for some free publicity
  • Gift cards to your store for their next stop in – ALWAYS promote a repeat visit!


  • 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 – this is the time to promote all things luxurious. The best bath products, the softest robe, or fluffiest powder puff, the fine leather wallet or journal.
  • Offer free gift wrap AND delivery with a minimum purchase.
  • Don’t forget the buyer with the long list to buy for – several teachers, nieces, ladies group, large family. 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.


Something extra special

  • Invite a local choral group to carol throughout your store during your event or to make a special appearance just outside, when you expect to be busiest. You could offer a donation to the group’s favorite charity in exchange for the caroling.
  • Pay local college students (or make a donation to their local club, sorority) to serve as waiters for your big day.
  • Live entertainment of any kind is always special- an acoustic guitar and singer.
  • Consider the lovely music of a harp or violin. Can you recruit someone from a local college?
  • Have Santa on hand for the children (and the big kids). Have a photographer on hand to capture the fun.
  • Have food tastings and demonstrations during your event. Sell the food or treats, or the prep tools and serving pieces used.  This is the time of year we entertain the most. Everyone is looking for fast and fabulous! Send everyone home with the recipe!
  • Offer valet parking, with the tips going toward a local cause or charity.
  • Ride your guests to and from their cars in a golf cart, if your town approves. Decorate the cart accordingly.

Marketing- in your e-blasts, flyers, or paper invitations

  • 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
  • Local food shelter- give a discount or gift to anyone that brings non-perishable food to donate at the event.
  • Adopt a family for the holiday season
  • 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.

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.


Creating an Impulse Shopping Environment Maximizes Sales

By Majda Rensberger, OneCoast Contributing Editor
Written 9/10/2010/Revised September 9/19/2011

What happens once a customer is in your store? How do you change the “just looking” customer to a “buying” customer? The answer is in creating a desirable shopping environment that triggers impulse behavior and ends in a sale. A veteran retailer and owner of Parkleigh Gift store in Rochester, NY, Jeannine Klee, captures the impulse spirit in every corner of her store, 6500 square feet to be exact.

When we think of an impulse item, we think of the typical lower price point product placed at the point of sale. While they are important to sales, impulse buying goes beyond the product. It is about creating an atmosphere that invites customers to explore, interact with the product and ultimately triggers the desire to buy. “You can make almost anything an impulse,” says Jeannine.

There are a few ways in which Jeannine creates an impulse environment:

Build a story around the product’s core value

“I take into account what something feels like when you touch it, what color it is, if it makes a noise or if something shouts out at you “this is how I sell best” and if you figure out what that is, then you have to make it connect with the customer,” says Jeannine.

If the predominant value of a product is its color, create a color story that will draw your customers visually. If the fabric, the feel or touch is what makes a product, make sure the customer interacts with it. Take it out of packaging, put it in their hands and the product will speak for itself. If the product has a unique story, tell it. Start out by picking up the item and saying “Did you know”.  Stories create an emotional connection to the product and add a value beyond its physical attributes.  Appealing to your customer’s senses: the look, the feel, the smell, creates an impulse buy.


Placement is key in maximizing impulse buying and Jeannine strategically integrates product vignettes throughout the store.  For example, recently Jeannine brought in a new item, a Fish Condo by Umbra, and within hours of displaying them they were gone. A perfect impulse item.  Impressed with the success of this item, she ordered more. Instead of displaying them at the point of sale, Jeannine will create a fun table display and place it in her Crabtree & Evelyn department.  By doing this she is adding a surprise element to her personal care section and drawing attention to an area where she wants to increase traffic.

With eleven departments carrying everything from children’s to gifts, accessories, personal care, coffee, tea and more, Jeannine cross merchandises products throughout the store which helps to draw customers into areas where she wants to create attention

Promoting & Marketing

Events bring traffic through the store and are one of the best ways to maximize impulse purchases. Parkleigh holds up to five events a month, many focused on particular vendor brands such as Vera Bradley, Troll Beads and iota by C.R. Gibson.

“Our iota event was one of our best vendor events thus far,” says Jeannine. Kelly Alford herself, visited the store, met customers and signed journals.  “We had people standing in line just to shake her hand.” One of the local candy companies, made home-made chocolate truffles and Parkleigh gave away starter journals to each customer. A simple event that generated tons of traffic and buzz and was covered by a local newspaper.

Outside of events, Facebook is a great way to generate curiosity about your products and attract customers to visit. Parkleigh does a great job marketing themselves on Facebook and have grown to over 2500 fans since they started the page in March (2010).

Overall, it is about merchandising and playing off on the product’s core attributes. However, Jeannine does bring in true impulse items at lower price points. Positivity bracelets by Alexa’s Angels is a great example. Every employee in the store wears them and tells the story of passing on the positive. It’s a display that’s constantly refilled and a perfect impulse item with a story.

“When I walk into my store, I pretend to be a customer and let myself see what’s screaming at me and what isn’t. I am very visually oriented. I can put my hands on a ton of stuff in my store and create a vignette around it and find out how it speaks best to the customer.” As Jeannine said, anything can be turned into an impulse item if you let your products shine and demand attention.

Getting ready to celebrate their 50th year in business  in October (2010), Parkleigh’s business continues to blossom. Their sales are up from last year in all departments and customers are buying. So how do you turn a “just looking” customer to a “buying” customer? “Make your store an experience each time a customer walks in,” says Jeanine. “Surprise them visually; appeal to their senses; grab their interest from their first step to the final check out.” It creates an impulse environment and keeps customers coming back time and time again.


Sizzling Display Ideas Abound

Here are some retailers who would like to share their HOT merchandising displays ideas with you. Let’s begin with Absolutely Fabulous in Huntington Beach, CA. Their dazzling wedding window display really showcases their products including Mud Pie in an elegant way. From crystals to glass vases to beading and flowers.


Time to talk sandals! Displayed here are Lindsay Phillips sandals on a tray filled with sea shells along with a vase filled with sand.

Check out these from Fancy That in San Marino, CA. They really thought outside the display box and created their own set-up. They took their Lindsay Phillips displayer apart and hung each side from the ceiling. By doing this, it allows them to free up floor space for a table top full of Lindsay Phillips shoes and accessories.

Speaking of accessories, take a look at this display idea from Giftology in Rockville Centre, NY. Mannequins are not just for displaying your apparel. Giftology got creative and dressed their mannequin up in scarves.

Get creative with boxes! Try this creative shelving option by mounting crates or wooden boxes directly to your wall. See the example that features C.R. Gibson’s Botanic Garden collection placing items within the boxes and side table. Finish the look by bringing in greenery for that outdoor feeling. Spring is here!


Saraboo Creek in Crest Hill, IL screams spring with large metal flowers within their garden-inspired window display and throughout their shop. Also, using large wooden letters help to showcase your theme.



Simply Rr’s in Dublin, OH showcases their Mud Pie baby pieces by incorporating plush and whimsical flowers.

It’s all about boy with this striking black display case that allows each item to really POP!

Get inspired by your products. Here we have a cute baby display using the Little Spout collection by Mud Pie. We have taken the image on the outfits and painted a motif on the wall creating a complete story.

Try this…take one collection and make a statement! This one comes from our showroom in Atlanta which features the Mud Pie Blue Paisley collection. Displaying your flop flops, hats and purses in exciting new ways are sure to make them stand out.

Holiday Open House Brings Thousands of Customers through the Store

By Majda Rensberger, OneCoast Contributing Editor – 10/11/2010

Every November, Tweed, a gift and accessories store in Richmond VA, prepares for their biggest event of the year: the Holiday Open House.  It’s their official kick off to the holiday season and one that their customers eagerly await.   “We have customers who start coming into the store in September asking for the date of our Open House,” says Kate Stottlemeyer, owner of Tweed. It’s so big that due to its popularity and large traffic,  has evolved into a three day event sending up to a thousand customers through the store.

Holiday Open Houses are a crucial element to your 4th quarter business. They are an opportunity to capture holiday sales early, create buzz in the community and bring customers back a few times before the 25th.  For six years, Tweed has hosted a Holiday Open House event and every year it grows bigger and more successful.  With 300-500 customers shopping on Saturday, the main event day, Kate simply describes it as a “mad house” and shopping for customers was tough. To make shopping easier, they extended the event from one day to three days.

Between the three days of the event up to 1000 customers shop the store. “Our Open House days are by far our biggest sales days – 3 times as high as our best (non-open house day).  And, knock-on-wood, we’ve been able to break our record every year!”

Timing is Key

Holiday shopping being the most competitive time of the year, Kate suggests being the first one to have your Open House.  Kate uses the College football schedule as a factor in planning and schedules her event the days when local college games are at home as they gain additional traffic from town visitors.  If you don’t have a college football game to plan around, consider the weekend after Black Friday. With Black Friday being a high traffic day every year, an Open House event the weekend after gives customers yet another strong incentive to shop your store.


“I would absolutely offer a discount,” says Kate, “and it doesn’t have to be huge. We offer 15% off the entire store, and you would think it was 50% based on the shoppers; something to incentivize people into the store for the event.  Take the mentality of “if you build it, they will come”, and be ready for more than you expect (food, and staff).”

In addition to the discount, there are prize drawings and free gifts with purchase. Every customer that walks in enters a drawing for a free present. Tweed partners with various vendors like Mud Pie and Vera Bradley for free giveaways. Drawings are a great way to excite the customers but also build your database.

Gift with purchase is a great way to motivate customers to spend that extra $5 or $10. For every $50 purchase, Tweed gives away a free tote bag and customers love it.

So when you combine the discount, giveaways and gift with purchase with great food, music and people, you make your store, the store to shop.

Getting the Word Out

Getting 1000 people to shop your store requires marketing. In addition to word of mouth, Kate uses an integrated approach to her marketing, making sure that she reaches her most valuable customers every way she can.  That includes a post card invitation to customers who purchased within the last 12 months, email blast to the entire database of 4000 customers and Facebook to generate buzz and further spread the word.  Combined, these marketing vehicles drive traffic to your event.

Creating a Festive Environment 

Just like first impressions, the first step into your store is one of the most important ones. Liven your customer’s holiday spirit and inspire holiday purchases by creating an environment. “Our Open House days feel very festive with lots of food, music and decorations that spread the holiday buzz.” Displays are beautifully merchandised and capture attention, inspire ideas and most importantly inspire a purchase.

Service, Service, Service 

Just like first impressions, the first step into your store is one of the most important ones. Liven your customer’s holiday spirit and inspire holiday purchases by creating an environment. “Our Open House days feel very festive with lots of food, music and decorations that spread the holiday buzz.”  Displays are beautifully merchandised and capture attention, inspire ideas and most importantly inspire a purchase.

But in the end, what truly makes a Holiday Open House successful and what sets the stage for years ahead is your service. “One can offer the best promotions, serve the greatest food but it’s that human touch and relationship that makes it what it is. Our customers love coming to Tweed because we treat them like family,” says Kate.

When you walk into the store, a greeter welcomes customers with a big smile as they would a friend into their home. Staff is stationed throughout the store to answer questions and assist customers and vendors attend to help educate on their products.

Ready to make 2010 another record breaking event, Kate says it’s really simple: “Make it an event that is special and unlike any other day in your store.  Most importantly, have fun!  In a way, it’s a cocktail party and you and your staff are the hosts.”

A Look Inside: Q & A on best categories, trends & successes

Brief History of Tweed 

Tweed is a family owned and operated gift and accessories store in Richmond, VA.  We opened in Richmond in October, 2004, and just moved into a bigger location in June, 2010.  We have gifts and accessories for women, men, kids, babies, and your home!  We also have an e-commerce website: www.tweedathome.com that launched in November, 2009.

Q: What’s the biggest trend you are seeing in your store?

A: In this economy, the trend is gifts, gifts, and more gifts.  The option to re-decorate your home comes with a good economy, and when times are tougher, we’ve found that the gifts never go away.  So, we have definitely adjusted our inventory to be more heavily weighted on the gifts, and that has made a difference for us in the last couple of years.  The biggest trends in gifts…Initials and personalization are still going strong!

Q: What products sell best in your stores?

A: We have a variety of vendors – hundreds.  Purses, shoes, tote bags, entertaining ware, house wares…it truly is a little bit of everything.  Our store has something for everyone on your shopping list. Also, a key factor for us is price point.  We try to find the most unique and well-priced items.

Q: What categories sell best?

A: Women’s accessories; gifts for the Home; Collegiate; Jewelry; Baby; and anything personalized!

Q: What makes your store unique and keeps customers coming back?

A: The changing merchandise and the customer service. 

Q: What has been the best event you’ve held to date?

A: Our Holiday Open House.  Our second runner up is the Grand Re-Opening party we had when we moved into our new location (June, 2010).  We had a band and fabulous food – over 300 guests attended on a Tuesday evening in the summer…we were thrilled! We didn’t offer a discount, but we had plenty of giveaways, and artists/vendors on-hand.

Q: Besides events what do you do to market yourself?

A: Our website, Facebook, email, and local advertising in a few key publications.

Q: One IDEA to share with retailers?

A: We are working to create a more active Facebook page by offering weekly Facebook deals and giveaways.  We have seen the results of getting people into the store when you can keep dangling “teasers” in front of them!

JOIN OUR FACEBOOK DISCUSSION: What was your best event to date? What made it successful? Click here to respond.

Create a Stunning Mother’s Day Display using few Simple Steps

By Marc Dudley, Director of Visual Merchandising

If you are doing your display window, or an in-store vignette, there are three things that you must ask yourself:

  1. What are you selling?
  2. What image are you projecting?
  3. Who is your customer?

You should know your store and customers like you know your mother.  Is she June Cleever or Donna Reed? Maybe Louise Jefferson, or Peg Bundy.  Or perhaps she is a combination of all.
Know what it is you are selling, to whom, and the image you want to portray.

Your seasonal vignette is in your store for a short time and should hit your customers the minute they enter the store, so placement is important.  Position the display where it can be seen immediately and also from the window if possible.

Your display should be eye-catching. What is it going to take to get your customer to notice this display and want to buy something? This can be achieved by the use of

  • Color and theme
  • Large, oversized props
  • Tall floral
  • Use of air space above

Building Your In-store table display for Mother’s Day

  1. Use a 36” round table (or a size that is appropriate for your store)
  2. Cover with a full, flowing, soft floral cloth.  Keep in mind that Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May when spring is in the air and the flowers are beginning to bloom.  Color is a welcome change to the dull of winter. Color is your friend…don’t be afraid of using it.
  3. On top of the table, add a solid color square cloth that extends approximately  8 to 12 inches over the edge.  Choose a color that will coordinate with the floral underskirt and will complement your product.
  4. In order for your product to be seen clearly, use risers for different levels.  Make sure all the merchandise can be easily seen, touched, and purchased.  Here are some ideas on creating your own risers
    • coordinated hat boxes
    • flower pots (either clay or painted) 
    • product boxes (your store boxes or simply wrap boxes with colorful paper)
    • Stacks of books especially if you sell them in the store. Not only is this eye-catching, but this also adds color and serves a purpose.  
    • Use different sizes and heights and be creative. 
    • Use a tall vase of silk flowers to add height to the table.  Forsythia, cherry blossom, quince, or dogwood are good silk stems to use and readily available in spring.  Simply put several tall stems in a clear cylindrical vase and place on the table.  Usually stems that are 3 to 4 feet in height work well and can be very dramatic.
    • Choose your merchandise and place on the levels and on the table so that everything can be seen easily.  
  5. Tell a story with the product and group the items so that they work together, and can produce multiple sales. 
  6. Put a picture frame and a pair of candle holders together, or group a bowl of potpourri with a decorative vase.
  7. Utilize your air space to the fullest.  Too often air space is overlooked.  This can be achieved with signage: 
    • Signage in the shape of a ladies hat or a purse
    • Signage in the shape of a greeting card that simply states date of Mother’s Day or “don’t forget mom” or “thank you, mom”.

Most importantly, don’t allow the color, floral, or props to overpower the display.  It must all work together to enhance the product that you are selling.

Just remember mother— how beautifully stylish she is;  always together and coordinated from her hat, pearls, gloves, down to her seemed stocking and heels washing the dishes… or in her peg-legged stretch pants, leopard crop top and biker boots as she mounts her Harley and heads into the sunset on May 9th, Mother’s Day.

Be creative and remember that you are only limited to your own imagination!