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It Ain’t Over

I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait for 2021 to arrive. It has to be better than the current year, don’t you think? With all of the uncertainty in today’s market, one thing is certain: the holidays are happening, and your business cannot be left behind.

It Ain’t Over

Salvage 2020 by pursuing holiday shoppers

By Fran Carville, CRM

"It ain't over till it's over." — Yogi Berra

Just 2 months left to go in 2020. I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait for 2021 to arrive. It has to be better than the current year, don’t you think? With all of the uncertainty in today’s market, one thing is certain: the holidays are happening, and your business cannot be left behind.

Having said that, we can’t give up on 2020. After all, the holiday season is in full swing. Stores are decorated with trees, lights, and holiday displays. The sounds of the season fill the air and even the most cynical of shoppers will be purchasing holiday gifts.

With all of the uncertainty in today’s market, one thing is certain: the holidays are happening, and your business cannot be left behind. According to, “consumers will be spending for the holidays no matter what,” and retailers should not “count the consumer out this holiday shopping season.”

So, it is not a question of IF consumers will be shopping. The only question is, will they be shopping with you?

Considering that holiday sales topped $1 trillion (that’s trillion with a T) last year, it really is worth it to make a big push in these last 2 months. Maybe holiday sales have not been a large part of your fourth quarter revenue in past years, but this is anything but a normal year.

What can we do in the few remaining weeks left of 2020 that can make a difference? Quite a lot, actually!

10 Things You Can Do Right Now

1. Get to work selling gifts via social media. If that’s not in your comfort zone, use a service like Constant Contact to send out a weekly e-mail blast. Feature one “special of the week” item at the beginning of each week. Just one, not 20. Don’t use a lot of text but do use the word “personalization” to set your product apart from generic items other retailers are offering.

2. Offer a “gift with purchase.” Consumers see great value in receiving something free during this time of the year. You can change the item every week or have one gift for the rest of the season. This year, we are giving a leatherette ink pen for free with the purchase of a leatherette portfolio. This is a gift that works for almost any group of consumers.

3. Promote the old adage of “what’s in it for me?” to your customers. According to Deloitte, “more than half of consumers buy ourselves a gift” during the holidays. Suggest an add-on gift to every customer that they can use themselves.

4. Offer point-of-purchase stocking stuffers. Stocking stuffers are almost always last-minute, impulse purchases. This year our small, point-of-purchase tree features luggage tags (who doesn’t need a new one?) in several colors and styles. A personalized gift in a stocking will be a creative add-on for every customer’s order.

5. Don’t ignore Black Friday. Black Friday has always meant “head to the mall or big box store,” but according to Scott Rankin of KPMC, “with everything that’s going on, there may be no Black Friday at all.” I think Black Friday will happen, but it will be different this year. For instance, Walmart has already announced it will spread the specials out and have more online options. Other companies are working on how to make it work while still enforcing social distancing. Consumers uncomfortable with crowds this year can be helpful for you and me. Let customers know about your Black Friday: no crowds, easy parking, and COVID standards in place.

6. Rethink the term “gift.” Do not write off holiday sales because you think you don’t have gift inventory. Rethink “gifts” and look around your stockroom. Can you sublimate family photos with the caption “Happy Holidays from the Smith Family” on coffee mugs, photo plaques, ornaments, and T-shirts? What about bamboo products with one initial, just like the ones I saw in a gift store for twice the price (the shop owner said it was her most popular gift item for 2020)? Personalized journals are very popular this year (think teenage girls), as are at-home office items.

7. Create a “Gifts to Go” station. Have three to five prewrapped items for a Gifts to Go station. The National Retailers Federation says that “while shopping used to be a form of entertainment and leisure, it has become transactional and intentional.” Your Gifts to Go will give your customers a way to shop with you quickly, getting in and out with limited contact. If they are frequent customers, they can just sit in their vehicle and pop the trunk for you to place the wrapped gifts in. Shopping done!

8. In-person matters as much as online. Don’t be afraid to invite consumers to visit your brick-and-mortar store. Think about the results of a survey by ShopKick that found, “although e-commerce will play an important role in driving holiday sales, brick and mortar is still critical. Generation Z, in particular, will do the majority of their shopping in stores.” Make certain that you have gifts that will appeal to these younger, more aggressive shoppers.

9. Distribute a gift flyer. Develop a single flyer for every customer who comes into your store. Consider sending the same flyer by snail mail to regular customers. Add the flyer to your online accounts. List your top five gift items by category. “gifts for the boss,” “religious gifts,” and “gifts for teachers” are some categories that might work for you.

10. Let passing shoppers know you offer gifts. Put signage outside of your store to let everyone passing by know that you sell personalized gifts or that you customize holiday gifts. Anyone who does not purchase awards probably doesn’t realize all that you have in your store. So tell them!

What Else?

Holiday shopping is important for all retailers in the fourth quarter, but if you offer awards, you have additional opportunities to sell merchandise in November and December. Like what?

  • Fall and winter sports awards will be the first time many of you have the opportunity to sell team awards, from pee wee through college, since spring. With such a large group of student athletes competing during this time of the year, it is worth your time to reach out to coaches, recreation centers, and church leagues.
  • School awards should get back on track before year’s end. The end of the semester is the perfect time for honor roll and academic awards. Contact band directors, along with cheer and dance team sponsors. Don’t be afraid to ask if they would like to go back and recognize achievements from the last school year. These last 2 months of 2020 could be a mini busy season for your business.
  • Charities and nonprofit organizations have been hit hard in 2020. Fundraisers have been canceled and donations have dropped. What can your company do to help just one group? Consider being a collection point for a food bank or animal shelter. People that have never been in your store will come in to drop off their donations and see all you have to offer.
  • Contact your corporate customers with a plan to market their company with your promotional products. By purchasing their marketing pieces now, they can start promoting in January. Offer a few suggestions that would work well for the first quarter of the new year. (And while you are at it, develop your own marketing plan to revitalize your business in 2021!)
  • While you are on the phone with those corporate customers, suggest end-of-year awards for their employees. No matter what type of business they’re in, 2020 has been very stressful for employees. So why not take this opportunity to acknowledge their contributions?

Don't Give Up

2020 has been the most trying year that many of us have ever faced. The challenges have been numerous. Keeping your staff employed and healthy. Losing part or all of your busy season sales. Customers canceling their events. All in all, 2020 is not a year any of us wants to repeat. But with 2 months left in this year, IT AIN’T OVER!

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 Excell

Awards and Personalization Association

The Awards and Personalization Association is the organization for retailers and suppliers of personalized and customized items. By providing education, meetings, and access to a vibrant network of professionals, the Awards and Personalization Association is the one place to ensure the growth of your talent, your business, and your professional community.

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