Four Tips for a Holiday Strategy

Jul 28, 2010 11:46 PM  By

If you’re like most retailers, you depend heavily on holiday to generate the bulk of your sales for the year. So it needs to be a good season.

To make the most of your holiday, it helps to map out the season’s marketing and merchandising plan well before it occurs. Here are four tips to get you started on this.

1) Don’t forget a good holiday idea
Hopefully you had a hindsight/brainstorming session with a cross-functional team as soon as holiday finished last year. That’s when the season is still fresh in everyone’s mind and ideas are flowing. “We shouldn’t have done…” “We should have done…”

You need to have this hindsight meeting in a timely manner and document the results, findings and recommendations for next year. You don’t want to repeat the same costly mistakes or miss out on those great opportunities that were thought of during the season. Those memories and ideas become more vague with time.

Keep a holiday folder where you put the prior year’s hindsight and ideas, as well as any new ideas that pop up throughout the year. That folder will be invaluable when kicking off the brainstorming and planning for this holiday season.

2) Maintain a promotional calendar
This sounds so obvious, but too many companies do not maintain a promotional calendar of all planned and actual promotions. Without the calendar, you can miss promotional marketing opportunities because of different lead times and different teams working on various marketing efforts.

For instance, you may find that the Website team isn’t talking to the catalog team or visual merchandising team for the retail stores or vice versa. The Internet lead time is so short that those folks don’t always think about the site’s promotional strategy far enough ahead to leverage the marketing efforts of the catalog.

You should coordinate and leverage promotions across many different media to experience the full revenue potential of the offer. There are always last-minute promotions added that, if not memorialized, will not be considered for next year.

Suddenly your sales are down 20% and you can’t figure out why–until someone reminds you that there was a last-minute promotion of 30% off those three categories this week last year. Document each event with not only what the event was, but marketing collateral, overall results and recommendations for next time.

Include public relations on your promotional calendar. You should track what products were promoted and where. That can affect your sales and provide opportunity to work with those editors on this coming season’s products. Magazines work on their issues well ahead. Have you been promoting your new and exciting 2010 gifts to gain additional exposure?

3) Properly allocate circulation between catalog drops
Have you made sure your allocation of circulation between the various holiday mailings is optimal? Most catalogers use a strict matchback process that analyzes the names mailed and allocates orders to whichever mailing came last.

This strategy will artificially inflate the results of the last drop, typically a late November, early December mailing. By looking at promotion codes and source codes captured, you can gain a better understanding of which mailings actually drive the holiday sales.

4) Create a holiday gift guide
A holiday gift guide to that showcases great or unusual gift products is a good way to boost seasonal sales.

This is an obvious choice for a category on your Website, but consider creating a gift guide within your catalog. You could do this within the current pages of your book or even increase the size of your book slightly for the holiday season and increase product offering.

You could also insert a slightly smaller gift guide into the catalog. Restoration Hardware does this with its Baby & Child insert.

The gift book could then be pulled out and kept by the consumer. You could also use it as a direct mail piece or package stuffer, or even a store handout.

Next time we’ll look at leveraging your Website marketing and key operations areas to look at for the holiday.

Michelle Farabaugh is a partner with Lenser, a multichannel direct marketing firm.