“Come, woo me, woo me: for now I am in a holiday humor and like enough to consent.” It’s not a quote from the latest soap opera but one from the time-honoured play As You Like It by William Shakespeare. This play is also the source of another well-known saying: “too much of a good thing.” Have no pity. Holiday cheer is a wonderful thing. It is a grand excuse to escape the humdrum of life, a relief from daily adversity and a “repayment” from the establishment.
Today, it’s all about the art of celebration. It is important. Celebrating, whether it’s personal success, special days or familiar calendar events, form milestones in our personal lives. As social beings, we love to be choreographed when good things happen. Warm cosseting is a great feeling - politeness reigns, barriers begin to evaporate and proper emotional balance returns to our world. It is crucial to our being that we are noticed and appreciated and get time to recapture our emotional balance.
All work and no play can make Jack a dull boy. If you gradually lose enjoyment of life, the important value/celebration equation starts to crumble. Nature has hard-wired us to thrive on social connection. Neglecting this primary element is disastrous. Acknowledgement and social connection deserves both our recognition and celebration.
As an independent garden center, you’re extraordinarily well placed to take advantage of celebration. The big box stores really only pay it lip service, at best. They say they care, but do they? There are three “care” categories of box store celebration. The first say they care about celebration and have it independently policed. The second say they care about it and police it themselves. And the third (this is where most of them reign) say they care, and then no one monitors or manages it at all. The products in these stores are put on the shelves on a specific calendar holiday event just because it is a holiday event; there is no other reason.
Verdict Research in the U.K. states that out-of-town shopping malls have missed out badly last year as independents took advantage of a national year of U.K. celebration. The Olympic Games in London, European football and The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee lifted hopes for U.K. retailers. Independents took the one-off events more seriously in terms of retail benefit. In fact, a special group was set up to study the effects of future celebrations. Verdict says celebrations are shaping the nation, increase positive thinking and easily jump-start consumers into seasonal and event shopping. If you want a figure on increased turnover during celebrations, it’s in the region of 7 to 8 percent.
Holidays and special events generally fall into three categories. First, there are calendar events like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Halloween. Second, there are personal events like birthdays, anniversaries and graduations. And third, there is a myriad of special days for almost every day of the year and almost every conceivable reason. If you have not got one to suit your own special agenda, then you can best make it up: “World’s Best Gardener Day” sounds good to me! And, more importantly, your prospect probably never heard of it.
Some have even made a business out of simply being a store for special events. South Africa’s Birthdays store promises “the card, the gift and the hug!” I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing it’s been a while since you gave a customer a big hug? Birthdays have great people appeal and, outside of Christmas, provide the biggest opportunity to sell cards and gifts. Let’s face it, in any given month, 8.33 percent of your customers (100 divided by 12 calendar months) are having a birthday. And if they shop in groups of three (which is about average in Ireland), then the odds of a birthday in that shopping group in any given month is now 25 percent. I’m not a betting man, but I really do smell an opportunity here. I need balloons, cards and plants with special names and people’s names. Those plants could be Rosemary, Lily, Violet, Daisy, Ivy, Jasmine, Olive, Myrtle, Marigold, Erica, Rose, Flora, Holly, Iris, Petunia and I wouldn’t even drawn the line at Sweet Pea.
There’s a reason all these named plants are female names. The ladies like celebrations. We men like to hide behind emotion. The “little things” that matter greatly to the ladies probably never register in the male mind. When something good happens in female circles, it transmits at the speed of light. Women love to choreograph the good news, especially when it affects the social lives of their families. They know every facet of the emotional jubilations and stresses of their kids whilst the man of the house is vaguely aware of some little people running around in the background. What we’re saying here is that the target market for holiday celebrations is predominantly female, so that’s where the energy needs to go.
If you don’t sell greeting cards, you should. Start a birthday club now. Women buy 80 percent of the cards sold. They spend more time than men choosing as well. And whilst men’s cards can simply be “dudes, cars and beer”-type cards, ladies’ cards are “just because,” “for when she needs a shoulder” and “for proudly perfect mums” and so on. Strategically, remember that for every card, there’s also a gift.
The ranking of importance of holidays and celebrations is as follows, in descending order: birthdays, Christmas and seasonal, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Graduations and “me to you” messages. Research from the United States says that for every 10 cards purchased each year, ladies would buy another 70 if (and it is a big “if”) the card captured the exact sentiment.
Birthdays are the really big celebration because everybody has one. If you don’t mail your best customers a card, please start now. Their age isn’t important; it’s the thought that counts. It gives her a surprise in her mailbox and says “gratitude” and “goodwill.” And it gives her an excuse to visit your store.
If you’re stuck for a holiday opportunity, search online - you can find literally hundreds of them. I came across some bizarre ones, like “If Pets Had Thumbs Day” (March 3) and “Mother-in-Law’s Day” (the forth Sunday in October). It doesn’t really matter if the holiday makes sense or not. The fact that it is a holiday is what matters.
My favourite is, and it seldom goes without comment in our store, a handwritten sign on a giant metal chicken with the words: “Today’s special. So is tomorrow. And the next day.” It never fails to win a smile and provide that warm cosseting glow.