Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Malcolm and I are empty-nesters — with our kids being gone or celebrating Thanksgiving elsewhere. Rather than eating alone, we typically attend our town’s community dinner on Thanksgiving.  Of course, we miss being with family, but it is nice to catch up with the friends we see at the community dinner.

This year we sat with the new library director who is busy with an expansion program for the library.  They currently have the new extension’s outside frame built and are waiting for the funding to finish the inside.  I find this project particularly interesting as they tore down a house I lived in between my marriages in order to build the extension!

Thankfully, Thanksgiving is early this year, giving us an extra long holiday selling season.  With the official start as the infamous Black Friday, the season is over 30 days long!  We have found that the longer the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the more sales we make!  Go figure!!

And of course, this is time to finish off the last of our re-organization of our products, gift supplies, and shipping materials as the biggest sales season of the year begins.

Today (Friday), is a good day to check and double check your inventory and supplies to make sure everything is ready to go!  Since so many people are at the Black Friday sales at the various retail outlets, online sales are typically slow until Saturday or even the following week.

Enjoy your weekend!  From this moment forward, we might all be too busy to think of anything other than filling orders!!

 

 

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Last Minute Website Tweaks

I was gone most of last week taking care of my daughter and her 5-year-old son after my daughter underwent a minor surgery.  One thing I noticed very quickly is how much energy a 5-year-old has pent up, just waiting to get out!

I wish I could capture all his energy and use it for myself.  His show of energy reminded me of all the things I knew needed my focus as soon as I got back home.  Busy, busy, busy getting the last of our holiday products in stock and on the website.

Over 2/3 of our Tastes of Idaho sales happen between now and the end of the year.  We frequently get additional ‘corporate orders’ which consists of large amounts of products and/or baskets sent out for customer and employee gifts.  Counting all of the orders, phone, website, and corporate, we are usually too busy to do focus on anything else!

So about now, I need to make sure that everything is accurately lined out on the website BEFORE the big rush hits!

Last Minute Website Tweaks

In order to make sure all of my last minute website tweaks are taken care of, I formulated this quick checklist:

  1.  Check all of my products (192 of them this year), making sure those items that are in stock are listed as available and those that are not (didn’t make the sales last season) are removed or hidden.
  2. Update any price increases since the last time I ordered the product (we typically take the wholesale price per item, add a pro-rated shipping amount and double it — rounding to an acceptable retail price)
  3. We track inventory, so I update all the inventory amounts to make sure they reflect what you currently have in stock.
  4. Check all the photos to make sure the product is clearly represented.
  5. Rework any verbiage — especially on the home page and terms pages — for accuracy and ease.  (I don’t want your customers to be confused)
  6. Check shipping rates and update where necessary.
  7. Check all supplies needed such as shipping boxes, tape, bubble wrap and/or peanuts, labels (if needed), and organized these in a streamline fashion (think assembly line).

By this time, your marketing plan should be in place and new product emails are sent to your customers/subscribers at least once a week.  And if you are featuring a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale, make sure you announce it and repeated the announcement several times.

Anything else?  Did I forget anything?

 

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Are You Ready for Holiday Sales?

I am currently out of town, helping my daughter, but wanted to check in with some an important question:

Are you and your products ready for holiday sales?

Typically, it is late for wholesale purchases (although, I am still getting a few), but if you retail, you still have a bit more time.

Here are some links to help you along:

Drawing a Crowd to Your Retail Booth

More Holiday Booth Display Tips

Dealing with Holiday Stress

Preparing Your Online Store for the Holiday Season

Making Your Holiday Booth Inviting to Customers

More Holiday Tips

 

Drawing a Crowd to Your Retail Booth

Originally, our Tastes of Idaho business started out as a holiday retail booth.  Back in 2002, we rented a spot in our local mall and ran our booth for 12 grueling hours a day for 45 days from mid-November until the end of the year.

Despite the work and the long hours, it was probably one of the most fun and successful activities we participated in. This experience eventually prompted us to launch our website and our own gourmet business!

So what did we do to make the holiday booth so successful?

  1. We bought some easy-to-assemble wooden shelving which was very eye-catching and useful for displaying large amounts of gourmet and gift items in a small space (even 15 years later, people were trying to buy our shelving units.  Unfortunately, the company that made them closed their business).
  2. We greeted EVERYONE who walks by our booth, engaged as many buyers and ‘lookers’ as we could and were helpful and friendly to anyone who had questions.
  3. We stood most of the time we were in the booth (with a few breaks), so we were always eye level with our customers and thus, more approachable!

But the greatest draw to our booth, which translated into sales, was …..DEMOING SAMPLES!!

People loved to try our gourmet food products.  We cut up small bits of chocolates, sampled BBQ sauce with Corn Chips, gave out flavored popcorn ….. anything that could be sampled as ‘finger food’.

Now, I realize that not everyone makes gourmet foods, so this will not work.  But while we were giving out food samples, the glassmaker down the hall was demoing his craft (or making more product to sell) right in his booth!  The crowd from our booth eventually crowded around his booth to watch him ‘blow’ and form his glass creations. Between the two of us, we created quite an array of lookers who turned into buyers.

Take a long hard look at your product.  Can you make some or part of it in your booth.  Can you demonstrate the way to use or apply the product with your customers?  The more hands-on you can get with your customers, the more interest you will stir up, and the more sales you will make.

PS.  We also used some of the same tactics at our wholesale shows as well!  Especially sampling chocolate!!

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Getting Started with Your Holiday Marketing Plan

Time is slipping by and we are getting closer and closer to the largest sales season, and the most important time to develop a holiday marketing plan.  Most producers generate 50% or more (about 65% on our Tastes of Idaho site) of their sales in the 4th quarter of the year:  October, November and December!

If you are new or just not very organized this year, Clare at Indie Retail Academy put together a holiday marketing plan that looked pretty good:

I Made You a Christmas Plan  Getting Started with Your Holiday Marketing Plan

AUGUST

You’ll ask yourself “how much money would I like to make from selling my work to shops this Christmas?”

When you’ve written that figure down, you’ll work out how many wholesale orders you need from stores to make that much money.

SEPTEMBER

…You know that retailers are spending a lot of money on stock right now, and Christmas is getting closer with every passing day. That motivation and urgency is already on your side.

… spruce up your product photos or take some new ones.

You’ll make your existing products more giftable and pull together a starter pack.

You’ll freshen up your existing layout or create a brand new document.

And you’ll make certain your catalogue not only tells retailers HOW to buy your products, but WHY THEY SHOULD. And you’ll do that using your own style and voice, so those shopkeepers come to like and trust you.

Then you’ll send your wholesale catalogue out to stores, along with a personalized pitch email or letter, making your lead times and last order date very clear indeed.

OCTOBER

You’ll hopefully have Christmas orders coming in by now. ….

You’ll also follow up with stores as needed, you’ll think of upsells and add-ons and you’ll consider whether a free shipping offer (or another type of incentive) might help you reach your goal….

Then you’ll take another look at your incredibly persuasive catalogue, and hit send or pick up the phone.

NOVEMBER and DECEMBER

You’ll take very good care of your customers.

Apart from the odd panicked email, the majority of stores will have finished buying. Depending on how close you are to your goal you might still run a last-minute, limited-time offer, but your main job now is making sure your stockists have what they need, when they need it.

You’ll dispatch orders on time.

You’ll stay on top of the tracking information for your parcels in case there’s a delay.

You’ll be immediately reachable when stockists have a problem or a question, and you’ll be calm and helpful when you respond.

As your final order date approaches, maybe you’ll ring round your stockists to ask how they are and check if they need a final top-up….

Then you’ll wrap things up for another year.

For more tips to make your holiday sales smoother, I have more articles here: Holiday Tips

 

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