Articles for Retailers - by Kizer & Bender

15 Holiday Event Ideas to Spin the Doors on Your Stores!

    by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender

The busiest and most important selling time of the year is here. We’re knee deep in the Golden Quarter, when most retailers move from being unprofitable – “in the red” – to profitable – “in the black”. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales during November and December of 2016 increased 4 percent over 2015 to $658.3 billion, exceeding its forecast of $655.8 billion. That’s a lot of money and a lot of shoppers. To get your share you need to be prepared with at least one in-store event or promotion for the months of October, November and December.

This year Black Friday happens on November 24, Cyber Monday is November 27, and Super Saturday aka Panic Saturday falls on December 23. Retail forecasters believe that this year Saturday, December 16 will be a big shopping day, too. Do you have events already in place? Just in case you need a few ideas we’re here to help with 15 holiday events to spark your imagination:

1.    If you're going to hold an event, hold an EVENT. Make your sales floor festive with balloons and banners to attract attention, hire a DJ, a band to play or a choir to sing. Set tables of prewrapped gifts. Serve refreshments and hold drawings for door prizes. Make your events so big deal that they entice shoppers to stay longer and shop more.

2.    Appoint a Sultan of Sizzle for each event. Give this associate $50 – $100 to use at his/her discretion to kick the event up a notch. This added sizzle will make the event even more fun. Bonus: You’ll create a friendly competition between your associates as they try to out-do one another.

3.    Black Friday “Tea and Sympathy” mini open house. The day after Thanksgiving may not traditionally be a big day for your store, but you still can do something to stay on your customers’ radar. A mini open house gives exhausted shoppers a place to stop and regroup before hitting the mall again. Even if they don’t make a big purchase that day they’ll remember your kindness and return to shop with you again.

4.    Add a Black Friday “This Day Only” deal and maybe a Bounce Back Coupon to entice shoppers back the next week. Offer your Black Friday deals between 6:00 am and 10:00 am to capture first business. A coupon good for 50% off of any one regular priced item is usually a good bet because it’s all about choice. You decide which items are included in the sale and which are not; you can even limit the dollar amount if you like. Customers get to choose what’s on sale.

5.    Create a Top 10 List of Holiday Gifts by age and/or merchandise category. Make sure that every associate memorizes it and have plenty of copies available on the sales floor and at the cash wrap. Feature your list on social medias, your website, email blasts and in your newsletter. Mention it on store signing and on bag stuffers. Help make shopping decisions easy for your customers!

6.    “Let it Snow” Snow Promotion. Run an ad the day before Thanksgiving that states something like, If it snows 6” or more from midnight New Year’s Eve until 6:00 am New Year’s Day, all purchases made from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Day are absolutely free! – all customers have to do is save their receipts.

You’re thinking this is idea is nuts, aren’t you? What if it does snow exactly six inches within the allotted time frame? You could lose your shorts, right? Not if you visit and buy an insurance policy. Then pray it snows because you’re covered. Think of the PR potential!

7.    Girls Night Out. Sometimes a girl just needs a night off! Create an evening of fun and relaxation. Serve up refreshments (like mocktails), plus entertainment, mini-classes and demonstrations held right on the sales floor. Add contests and door prizes. Partner with a hair or nail salon to offer makeovers, manicures and pedicures. Your store will be the talk of the town.

8.    Holiday Ideas Open House. Hold your event on a Sunday from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm, offer in-store specials or invite guests to pop a balloon to determine discounts. Feature complete-in-an-evening projects, demos and makit & takits. And food. You know our motto: Food is Good!  The more customers’ eat, the longer they’ll stay.

9.    Holiday Coloring Contest. Put together your prize list and contact schools and day care centers to spread the word. Create a free-hand drawing you can reproduce for kids to color or look online for copy right free coloring pages. Group entries by age, assign each one a number, and post them throughout your store. Invite customers to vote for their favorites – by number – in each category, resulting in 1st – 3rd place winners, but every entry gets an Honorable Mention ribbon.

10.    Santa Paws Day. Studies have shown that women spend more time choosing a gift for their pet than they do for their spouse or significant other. Enter Santa Paws, the event for every pet with fins, fur or feathers. Fido gets to sit on Santa’s lap for five bucks, a dollar of which goes to a local animal shelter. Shoot the photos with a digital camera. Offer in-store pick up if you want customers to return to your store or via email if you need to grow your email list.

11.    Tree of Hope. Display a large Christmas tree in an area near the front of your store, but don’t decorate it. Instead, sell paper ornaments for a donation. When an ornament is sold, write the customer’s name on it and hang it on your Tree of Hope. Donate the money you raise to help feed needy local families during the holidays.

12.    Twelve Days of Christmas. Choose 12 special and different events to happen in your store on the 12 days prior to Christmas Eve. Events can range from full on promotions to free poinsettias for the first 50 customers.

13.    Pick-a-Candy Cane Sale. Buy a bunch of candy canes and dump them in a basket or line them up like toy soldiers in a piece of decorated foam. Write discount percentages in indelible marker on small stickers and stick one on the bottom of each candy cane. Follow these guidelines for each 100 candy canes:

Fifteen discounts at 15% off (one regularly priced item); 50 discounts at 20% off; 18 discounts at 25% off; 10 discounts at 30% off; 5 discounts at 40% off; 2 discounts at 50% off

Of course, the discounted amount and number of discounts given at each percentage is solely at your discretion. We’ve learned from experience that it’s important to announce a minimum discount of 10%, but not actually award any, so that every customer wins at least 15% off. If your sale has too many small discounts, word will spread that there haven’t been many big winners and customers will stay away.

14.    Push gift cards. If Tom buys Mary a gift from your store, she might like it, but it’s not going to get her inside your front door. But if he buys her a gift card she has to come to your store to redeem it, and while she’s there, she’ll be tempted by all of your cool product. And by the way, if you are still selling paper gift certificates it’s time to change to the plastic version.

Studies show that retailers who switch from paper gift certificates to plastic gift cards increase gift card sales from 35% to 50%. The main goal is the get the customer into your store to redeem that card, and plastic cards are just easier for customers because they fit right into their wallets. Paper cards have a tendency to be lost or forgotten.

Here’s why you want to push gift cards: 61% of customers spend more than the amount of their gift card and 55% of gift card recipients require more than one shopping trip to the store to spend the balance of their card. The more times they come to your store the more they are likely to buy something.

15.    Gift card plus one. As an added bonus, when a customer purchases a $50 gift card, give him a five-dollar gift card for his own use. People who are originally planning to spend $40 will often throw in an extra $10 if they know there’s something in it for them.

We have so many ideas to help you fill your store with customers this holiday season, so if you’re still hungry for more promotional ideas, drop us an email to  [email protected], put NAMTA on the subject line and we’ll send you 10 turnkey Retail Adventures events, complete with templates that you can easily customize. Happy selling!

Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, retail strategists, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail market place. KIZER & BENDER’s observations are widely featured in national newspapers, national and international industry and consumer publications, and on radio and television programs across the U.S. You can learn more at