Retailers pursue early gift salesWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When it comes to Christmas lists, retailers have only one wish: staying out of the red.
Most retailers lost last year and would probably like to break even in 2009, according to Thomas Passero, instructor in business and marketing at Owens Community College, who has researched retail marketing and sales trends.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, used to be the launching pad for Christmas goods, but that is no longer the case, Passero said.
“Retailers are aggressively pursuing Christmas business earlier with in-store displays and multiple media advertising,” he said.
National retailers, such as the Gap, Target, Wal-Mart and even Sears are using crisp, upbeat, well-choreographed commercials featuring popular culture and music from television shows or movies to appeal to the younger audiences, he said.
“If price is the issue, people will go to Wal-Mart, Meijer or other large-chain stores,” Passero said. “Some shoppers focus on service rather than price. Many people prefer good shopping and values without the crowds.”
Those consumers are more likely to shop at local stores or places like Levis Commons or Fallen Timbers where they can park closer and walk around in a Main Street atmosphere. Business trickles down to the individual boutiques, more unique or upscale shops, according to Passero.
Luxury goods companies are minimizing their inventories and keeping their prices up in jewelry stores or high-end gift shops, he said.
Smaller communities like Maumee, Perrysburg and Sylvania can attract shoppers with holiday decorations and atmosphere. Every store in those small towns can benefit from holiday events or parades that attract people from outside those communities, Passero said.
“Some privately owned smaller stores sponsor local holiday events or hold after-hours, private parties for their customers,” he said.
In-store product demonstrations and samplings are not just at Costco, Sam’s or Meijer, but have found a place in smaller stores like Walt Churchill’s Markets in Maumee and Perrysburg where a resident chef demonstrates holiday food preparation.
Hallmark stores have a practice of putting smaller fliers about special sales or holiday promotions in the bag when people are purchasing greeting cards. It is subtle, but can be effective, Passero said.
The family-owned Swan Creek Candle Company has been selling candles and gift products retail and wholesale since 1978. The business has a 30,000-square-foot factory in Swanton, a distribution center in Downtown Toledo and outlet stores in Swanton and Toledo, as well as in Dundee, Perry and Jackson, Mich.
Swan Creek Candle accepts orders online at www.swancreekcandle.com or by phone at 888-272-2773. All orders are usually shipped within a week, pending stock availability and always include a free candle to help defray shipping charges, according to its Web site.
Toledo Choose Local, an organization of locally owned businesses, encourages people to shop and support local gift and retail stores in the area, said executive director Stacy Jurich. When people buy local, the money is recycled in the community, support local jobs and companies and helps to stabilize the region’s economy, Jurich said.
For every $100 spent at locally owned businesses, $68 stays in the local economy. For every $100 spent at nonlocal businesses, only $43 stays in the local economy.