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Crowning Achievement

Crowning Achievement

Milestone parties celebrating again in brighter, more upbeat ways

By Nita Crighton | Special to Party & Paper Retailer

We in the party business know that every birthday is worthy of a celebration, but some birthdays are just so special they call for full out, bells and whistles, confetti-tossing revelry.

Milestone birthdays definitely fit that description. Whether marking a baby’s first year in this world, acknowledging a rite of passage for a 21-year-old, or proudly honoring a centenarian, these events are a big deal. Partyware wholesalers and retailers understand that and many are stepping up their milestone party game.

Then and now

Seasoned party-store owners likely remember when most adult milestone products featured an over-the-hill sentiment complete with vultures and tombstones. While these products are still on the market, they’ve undergone somewhat of a transformation with brighter colors and celebratory images replacing the gloom and doom.

Newer milestone products sport kinder, more cheerful patterns and messaging and customers like the updated look. “Amscan just came out with new turquoise and purple colors for their milestone products that have been doing well for us,” said Kip Jenkins, who, along with wife, Dawn, owns The Party Shop in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Although many of the store’s milestone products contain black accents, Jenkins finds brighter colors are stealing the spotlight. “Several of our customers purchase coordinating solids — especially gold and silver — to go with the milestone birthday products.” Other retailers said that today’s consumers are looking for a little glitz and glamour.

“Gold and glitter are the hottest trend in all party supplies,” said Lindsey Mattson, Marketing and Event coordinator at Big Dot of Happiness. “We use a silver or gold glitter print and pair it with a subtle pink or blue for our first birthday party themes. We choose to go bold with adult birthday party themes and pair the shimmering gold print with black and hot pink for the perfect 30th birthday party decorations.” But color isn’t the only change on the milestone scene.

“I’ve been online for almost 20 years,” said Sherri Stout Boyle, founder and CEO of Birthday Direct and Moxzie. “When I started, 40 was the best selling milestone age, then 50. Now it’s 50 and 60.” Boyle believes the shift is likely due to the nation’s aging population.

Best-sellers

No matter what the age, shoppers know what they want and don’t want. The right product selection is key to customer satisfaction and a successful bottom line. Currently Boyle’s customers are buying “nice” humor and sarcasm — no more mean-spirited joke items — as well as personalized goods. “Personalization is huge,” said Boyle. “People are really designing for social media. There’s a lot of pressure to put more of yourself into your parties because your guests are not the only ones who are going to see it. Today, parties are likely to be viewed on Pinterest, Facebook and other social media sites.”

Customers are looking for unique products that reflect who they are and the message they want to send. To foster creativity and offer customers the trendy, high style products they desire, Boyle actually started a second company. “Five years ago, I separated the creative arm of the company from production.” The result was Moxzie, Inc. Boyle said both her companies specialize in “taking commercial products and repurposing them.” For example, after learning a popular elephant print 1st birthday plate was only available in blue, Boyle’s group created a pink version.

Specific milestone products that are brisk sellers for Boyle include the Fabulous line, Vintage Dude, Grumpy Old Men and anything with a chevron pattern. All Birthday Direct retail customers receive 50 percent off tableware with no minimum order required.

At BigDotOfHappiness.com, Mattson said first birthday party products rule. “First birthday parties are everyone’s favorite celebration as they allow the parents to show off all of their little one’s accomplishments in the first year.” Favorite “Fun to be One” item at Big Dot? According to Mattson, parents are crazy about their monthly photo banners. The 12-piece banner sets are a fun way to photographically record baby’s first year.

The top rated adult milestone product for the online retailer is their birthday photo booth prop package. The 20-piece kits include glasses, hats and other items needed to create great scrapbook photos and mementos.

The devil is in the details

Balloons and tableware are milestone must-haves, but some customers are looking for the little extras that can take their party to the next level.

“We carry table decorating kits, banner cut outs and age-specific honeycomb centerpieces,” said Jenkins. Customers at The Party Shop can also pick up a Sweet 16 tiara or sash, tissue puffs in coordinating colors and even pre-packaged room decorating kits.

Variety is a point of pride for Big Dot of Happiness, too. “Our uniqueness lies in the fact that we carry every single thing you need to host an impressive party,” said Mattson. “We have the centerpieces and hanging decorations, DIY craft tags and stickers, custom cake toppers and cupcake décor all in the same matching theme.”

From ages one to 100, special birthdays deserve special recognition. With the right milestone products, you can help your customers create memorable celebrations that will keep them coming back year after year. 

Originally posted Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015