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What's New?

Whether you are attending the Awards and Personalization Association's International Awards & Personalization Expo in Las Vegas this month, sitting in the comfort of your store and browsing through industry suppliers' new catalogs, or enjoying a visit from an industry sales representative, one thing is certain–your excitement level is increasing as you view all of the new products available for 2017.

What's New?

Be Prepared to Wow the Next Customer Who Comes Into Your Shop Asking, 'What's New?'


(Originally printed in the February 2017 issue of Insights.)

Whether you are attending the Awards and Personalization Association's International Awards & Personalization Expo in Las Vegas this month, sitting in the comfort of your store and browsing through industry suppliers' new catalogs, or enjoying a visit from an industry sales representative, one thing is certain– your excitement level is increasing as you view all of the new products available for 2017.

What's new in industry technology? What's new in your most profitable merchandise category? What's new that will give you better options to sell to that sought-after group of consumers you want to add to your customer base? If you are a savvy merchant (and you know you are!), then this is the season to explore what our suppliers are offering that will make your business grow in 2017.

This is the season we select new merchandise for our showrooms and online stores. Sometimes the stars of the year are the items that are brand new to a supplier's line. Other times, the stars may be products that you have overlooked in past years, but now believe could appeal to a certain group of customers. One of our best-selling awards last year was not new to the industry, but was an item we had somehow overlooked in past years. You just never know where you will find those shiny new best sellers until you explore everything. But you do know what your customers will be excited about when you see it, don't you?


Recently, I reread the English translation of Emile Zola's book, Au Bonheur Des Dames. It is a fascinating book about the Bon Marché in Paris in the late 1800s. The store's philosophy was that "this branch of commerce was based on a mix of old and new, with old being the staples shoppers will always want and the new being the reason they keep buying." More than 200 years ago, the owners of the Bon Marché understood the importance of giving the customer what they want while showcasing products they didn't even know existed before.

The principle of creating excitement through merchandising continues to be important in retailing today, in both brick- and-mortar and online stores. And it is a concept that helps to answer the customer's question of "What's new?" So, how do we use the lessons of the past to create merchandise successes in our stores in 2017? Glad you asked!


  1. Display what's new in a prominent way. Please, oh please, don't let me be the only one to have ordered wonderful new merchandise at a trade show just to have it arrive at my store and sit in the stock room for weeks, still in the boxes. The old saying, "You can't sell it if the customer can't see it," describes a huge no-no in retailing, and yet, I am guilty as charged. Making the time to unpack the new items, price them, engrave them, and display them in your showroom must be a priority. In today's world, it is important to give customers exciting new options every time they come into your business or shop online. Even if the customer buys exactly the same things year after year, no one wants to shop in a store that has nothing new.
  2. Store atmospherics are so important to selling new products. Group new items together to showcase "what's new" if it makes sense to do so. Signage placed by new products that identifies them as "new for 2017" will draw the customer's eye to your new merchandise. Don't just mix the new items in with the old– the customers will be unaware that you have anything new and will assume it is the same old, same old.
  3. While you are updating your merchandise presentation in your store, don't neglect to feature these same products on your online store. If possible, create a featured product of the week to showcase what is new and relevant to the season or to your target audience. Use your social media platforms to let consumers know about all that is new in your store and online.
  4. Hold an event in your store to show off your 2017 merchandise to customers and potential customers alike. A very simple invitation to your store's "trunk show" can offer featured merchandise with a specific incentive to purchase within a short amount of time. For a bigger splash, host an open house withrefreshments, door prizes, and giveaways for everyone. Although this type of event often is associated with the recent holidays as a way to thank customers for their patronage, an event like this to show off what's new in your store right before the start of busy season is a terrific way to keep customers engaged with your business.
  5. If hosting an event to show off your new products does not fit into your schedule or budget, try sending a direct mail piece or an e-blast announcing the arrival of your 2017 merchandise. This serves to alert customers of your new finds and as a subtle reminder that you are ready to help them with all of their awards needs.
  6. Contact individual clients. During my department store years, I realized that the best sales associates were the ones that actively managed a call book. In today's terms, accurate and updated profiles are important for letting customers know "what's new." I still remember getting calls periodically from one sales associate letting me know that new merchandise in brands I preferred had arrived and that she had pulled my sizes. She would ask when I wanted to come by and try things on and I would always set a time with her. Boy, did I feel special!
    So, how can we translate that type of marketing to our stores? As an example, I'll use a customer that oversees a niche sports league. She remains loyal, in part, because we call her every year when we return from Las Vegas to let her know that we brought in samples specifically for her group. We pull those items together for her appointment and she comes in prepared to order her awards for the year. Bringing in specific merchandise samples for specific customers will make them feel valued and increase their loyalty to your business.
  7. Gear your "what's new" marketing to specific groups, whether you send the information through snail mail, online, or by making sales calls. A marketing piece featuring the newest basketball awards will have a much bigger impact on coaches than your generic "what's new" mailings. If you find a new item that you think will be exactly what a specific customer group wants, send each an engraved sample. By personalizing your marketing efforts, you should see a bigger return on your investment.
  8. Think about what you can market as "new," other than in the first quarter of 2017. What's new that you could market for Mother's Day, Father's Day, and graduation gifts later in the year?
    What's new that will serve as great awards the first 10 months of the year and can be rebranded as holiday gifts in November and December?
    Don't limit your marketing of "what's new" to the first few months of the year. See where the concept of "new" can fit into your promotional calendar for the entire year.


Mark Twain once wrote, "The secret to getting ahead is to get started." We can never assume that consumers, even the most loyal customers, will notice new products in our showrooms or in our online stores if we aren't diligent about displaying and pointing out "what's new" every single day. It is our responsibility to provide venues to showcase our new products and to creatively merchandise our new items.

The Bon Marché used a rotating mix of old and new that successfully drew consumers in on a regular basis. That concept of "old and new" still is very important in today's marketplace. So, the next time a customer comes into your store and asks, "What's new," be ready to amaze them with your merchandise!

Fran Carville, CRM, is an Awards and Personalization Association past president, educational speaker, 2008 Speaker of the Year, a member of the Hall of Fame, and winner of an Award of Excellence from the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Fran and her husband, Tom Carville, CRM, own Carco Awards in Baton Rouge, LA.

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