Graduation sales earn retailers high marks
Graduation has become a selling season in and of itself for retailers, and it’s no surprise that staples like balloons and paper goods are continuing to fly off the shelves in everything from school colors to trendy bright, bold hues with accents of sparkling silvers and prints.
What might be a surprise to some is the recent popularity of those nontraditional items — things like card boxes, banners and everything personalized — that are added in addition to staple tableware and décor. It’s these items that help grads make the party exclusively theirs and the sales exclusively yours.
The Name Game
Boni Dillinger of Dan D Party Corner
, in Cheyenne, Wyo., said personalization was a huge seller this past year — everything from photo banners to custom imprinted napkins flew out the doors. The personalized banners were from Creative Converting’s
graduation collection and came in 6-foot lengths with graduation cutouts such as mortarboards and diploma shapes, with an adhesive to attach a picture with each cutout connected by ribbon.
The banner could be purchased in a ready-for-assembly pack, but for a nominal fee they would crop and attach the customer’s pictures for them.
“These banners were marketed as a unique item for each customer’s needs,” Dillinger said. “One was displayed, fully assembled, with pictures of our own graduates above a table set as a candy buffet for customers that also featured other décor pieces. Seeing a fully assembled banner impressed our customers and learning we would do all the work for them sealed the deal.”
They used the banners for many more purposes than just a simple streamer. Dillinger said they were a hit for entrances and as an embellishment for table bunting. Their greatest profit came from customers seeing their work and trusting them with the setup of their preferred décor that would typically be a quick retail item.
“Along with the banners, we offered many coordinating personalized décor pieces,” Dillinger added. “Tissue fans were popular for backdrops and embellishments. These were also items purchased for retail from Creative Converting that were then personalized in our store. Attaching a picture of the graduate, their name or school mascot made these little quick selling items a huge hit.”
Personalized balloons were also very popular, and backdrops and entry décor featuring the graduate’s name or class year were a great success on both a large or small scale. They tried to offer personalization to each product that went out the door, as well as offering setup of these items.
Jeanine Morrison of Party Plus
, in Elizabethtown, Ky., agreed that the main items this past year were personalized, things such as banners, T-shirts, buttons and edible cake pictures.
“I started making banners in 2003 with the Inscribe system,” Morrison said. “The system was fast and easy but I could not be very creative as far as art work. In 2005 I purchased an Epson 7800 large format printer and my own Corel Draw software that allows me to make any design I wish with photos, clipart, font etc. and also any length banner up to 24-inches high. I charge $24.99-$44.99 for a standard size of 4- or 6-foot banner and can print on paper or a vinyl that is water and tear proof.”
About two years ago Morrison wanted T-shirts for employees to wear featuring the different holidays and seasons. It was quite costly to purchase those elsewhere, so she checked to cost of doing it themselves.
She found out she just needed a heat press (around $800) and transfer sheets that cost less than $1 each. Now they make their own shirts and also customer shirts for birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, etc. Her banners and T-shirts have gotten so popular she now has a full-time graphic artist just for that.
“In early May, I got a 3-inch button maker for about $400 and made some samples for us to wear in the store,” Morrison said. “In two weeks it paid for itself with grad buttons alone, and now we also make them for reunions, birthdays, etc. It only costs about 25 cents to make and I sell them for $1-$3 per button depending on quantities, and I have recently got a button maker for 1-1/4-inch buttons that we can also use to make key chains, magnets etc.”
They also make edible cake pictures for customers to put on their cakes, and they get several orders for personalized graduation napkins and candy bars.
Light the Way
Paper lanterns were also a big seller this year for Dillinger in all the school colors, as well as in the bold prints and accent colors graduates were choosing for their parties. Turquoise, magenta and lime green were commonly seen amongst other school colors, as were bold prints such as zebra, polka dots and chevrons.
Kacey Curry of Creative Converting agreed that using lanterns to draw the customer’s attention to a certain path is a great way to demonstrate how to create a focal point with hanging décor with your product merchandising.
“Our best and easiest way to sell items such as these, which normally come in ready to sell packaging, is to open a pack and show them off,” Dillinger said. “The front of our store was one huge display of lanterns in all colors, patterns and sizes. Doing this made them an easy add-on to existing orders and helped display the many ways they could be used.”
One of the best things Dan D Party Corner did this past year was to bundle items that would normally be purchased together and give a slight discount on the bundle —packaging party sets using seasonal items encouraged customers to purchase printed items rather than sticking with solid colors.
“We offered a basic graduation package featuring graduation table covers, confetti, a yard sign, a package of 50 plates, a package of 50 napkins, an assortment of cutlery, a card box and a banner all for a single price — 10 percent cheaper than that of buying each item individually,” Dillinger said. “Along with these basic packages, we offered easy up-sales for personalized items and other décor pieces at a slightly discounted price when purchased with a packaged deal.”
The key is to highlight and display what you want to sell. Before Dillinger displayed fully assembled personalized items were in their showroom, no one gave them a second glance. The key to up-sales for any item is to display it as the best it could be, with full personalization and embellishments. When a customer sees the item the way it could be it becomes what they’ve needed all along.