Preparing for Valentine's and Mother’s Day

Preparing for Valentine's and Mother’s Day
“I create window displays and in-store merchandising that acknowledge the occasion, whilst inspiring everyone to experiment” Sarah Connelly, owner, Odyssey Boutique

Preparing for Valentine’s and Mother’s Day

Carefully planned, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day can herald a welcome end to the post-Christmas quiet period for independents. So how should you prepare for two of the most important events in the retail calendar?

Plan early… but not too early

Timely reminders of upcoming events are an important aspect of preparing for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, because emotionally-engaging reminders can consistently trigger impulse purchases, according to retail psychologist Phillip Adcock, founder of the shopper research agency Shopping Behaviour Xplained Ltd.

Yet Adcock cautions that many retailers start advertising too early: “Give customers time to remember and make plans for event days, but avoid mixing Valentine’s Day products with Easter products (or Christmas with Halloween), as this dilutes their appeal, making the event seem a long way off, rather than just around the corner.”

Don’t overstock

Under-stock and you risk missing the sales opportunities posed by the seasons of lovers and mothers, but overstock and you might regret it for some time to come.

“Over-committing to stock is probably the most risky part of planning for special occasions,” says Poppy Treffry, textile designer and founder of the eponymous gift and homeware stores and online shop. She believes it’s critical to know what customers are likely to spend on Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

“Our shops are very coastal – they are busiest during summer – whereas Valentine’s Day is a fairly quiet time of year, so we have to be careful,” she says. Treffry recommends using market research to better understand your customers. “We used Survey Monkey for this and then planned stock levels accordingly, and the information we gathered about our customers was extremely useful.”

Kevin Cook, SME consultant for Business Doctors says the best way for established businesses to avoid overstocking is to base purchasing decisions on past sales figures, mindful that the rate of sale tends to “plummet back to normal” after such events.

And if you’re facing your first Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day as an independent retailer? Cook still advises erring on the side of caution when it comes to stock: “Unless you’re a florist, it’s unlikely that your turnover will double in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s or Mother’s Day. Better to buy a little and sell out, than have a shop full of love-themed products filling your shelves until next Christmas.”

Don’t underestimate visual merchandising

Few retailers forget the importance of an appealing shop window, yet many overlook more subtle visual merchandising techniques. Adcock advises putting front-of-store displays at the forefront of your VM strategy, because they put shoppers “in a positive frame of mind by triggering emotional recognition”.

“Themed displays throughout the store can also interrupt the ‘shopping coma’ that many shoppers fall into,” he says. “Using these displays to make choosing gifts easy — categorising them as ‘funny’ or ‘romantic’, for example — reduces any difficulty shoppers have in choosing the perfect present.”

Reminding customers of Valentine’s Day when they arrive is tactical, since the typical shopper impulse-buys for others at the start of the shop and for themselves towards the end, according to Adcock. “Even if they are part of the 38% who aren’t planning to celebrate it, they may be reminded to pick up a bottle of wine or treat for their significant other.”

Go the extra mile

Creating time for your customers can be difficult at peak busy times but Elaine Burns, creative director at Wear Eponymous – an independent fashion and lifestyle retailer focused on both e-commerce and pop-up shops – recommends planning for that.

“Be prepared to chat with customers one-on-one if they require assurance on a significant purchase for someone special,” she says. “They deserve your genuine, undivided attention to ensure that they have faith in their purchase and their questions are properly answered. It’s the least you can do, and makes all the difference between you and a mass-market retailer.”

Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest dates in the calendar for Sarah Connelly, owner of Edinburgh-based award-winning lingerie boutique Odyssey, but she gives a nod to the season, rather than re-stocking for it.

“Odyssey is built on representing the most luxurious and exciting lingerie year-round, so I don’t worry about alienating my non-Valentine’s clients at this time of year. Instead, I create window displays and in-store merchandising that acknowledge the occasion, whilst inspiring everyone to experiment.”

Don’t neglect social media

From PR and social media to local events and advertising, no stone should be left unturned in telling the world about upcoming seasonal promotions. But don’t focus so heavily on planning for sales that you overlook the value of building a buzz around your brand.

“Special events can make a major impact on sales throughout the year, providing reasons for shoppers to buy extra products,” says Adcock. “Even if they aren’t buying from the special displays, there may well be an uplift in sales — especially if you are giving away themed samples in-store, which can increase sales by around 10%.”

“Significant occasions in the retail calendar give you the opportunity to ramp up your activity around a theme,” agrees Cook. “Think about prize giveaways, good news stories, blogs commenting on fashion or gift trends – all of which tell your customers you are ready and waiting to help them with their buying dilemmas.”

Cater for everyone – within reason

You may have been eating, breathing and sleeping all things hearts-and-flowers for months, but that doesn’t mean your customers are enamoured with the season. Cater, too, for those who aren’t.

“Many inexperienced retailers misjudge the size and scope of their Valentine’s Day displays, hiding them away without advertising or allowing them to overrun the store, excluding shoppers who may not be interested in those items,” says Adcock.

Ultimately, though, it’s important to remember that you can’t please everyone all of the time. “In retail it’s very easy to lose focus, which can weaken the overall impact of your efforts, but instead of trying to cater for fathers on Mother’s Day, keep the focus unashamedly on customers looking to buy something tied to the seasonal event,” says Ali Ridha Jaffar, sales director of online photo gift retailer Printerpix. “There are at least 360 other days in the year to focus on everyone else, so be bold; experiment with the opportunity and see what it yields.”

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