Festive fun on a frugal budget
The winter holiday season is often filled with parties for family and friends at home, at the office and at school. But along with festive fun, it can also bring a bit of financial stress. Everyone likes to save a little money where they can, but what they don't want to do is give up value and style when it comes to entertaining.
Retailers can give shoppers a gift by showing them that whether it be Christmas or Hanukkah with the family, a winter wonderland party at school or a holiday fete at the office - festive doesn't have to mean expensive.
Festive and Jolly
According to a survey by the NRF, most holiday shoppers (32.4 percent) in 2010 planned to complete their shopping before Dec.18, although, Dec. 24 (11.9 percent) was expected to be the second busiest day between the 18th and Christmas Day. But it's not just Christmas that people will be looking to celebrate and decorate for. Because of that, it's up to retailers to offer a little seasonal something for every party need.
Kathy Flynn, seasonal products director for Pioneer Balloon Co., said that when the choice is to do a Christmas-themed party, the style most often selected is "festive and jolly." But with more emphasis on what's "politically correct," plus a desire to be all-inclusive at schools and offices, they see more celebrations moving to the general winter theme.
"Unlike Christmas decorations, which most consumers are ready to put away immediately after Dec. 25, winter themes can happen earlier - in November for example - and continue on seamlessly into January, all across the country," Flynn said. "A three-month window for ‘winter celebrations' means more profits and more happy customers."
She added that many products have been designed with the winter theme of snowflakes and snowmen, so there is no limit to the creative designing for parties. From giant snowflakes made of balloons to table centerpieces tall or short, balloons of any size can be used to create the winter wonderland theme.
Debbie Beer, vice president of marketing for Unique Industries, agreed that winter holidays offer great opportunities for both classic Christmas and general winter motifs. Their "Golden Christmas Tree" and "Classic Poinsettia" paperware designs are top sellers, appealing for traditional Christmas parties and open houses.
They're also introducing new "Festive Holly" and "Holly Garland" designs to augment the classic Christmas collection - trees, holly and greenery remain popular Christmas motifs.
"Our ‘Night Before Christmas' Santa design brings fun to holiday family gatherings at home," Beer said. "Snowmen and snowflakes are the strong choice for classrooms and community gatherings that seek a festive, non-religious holiday design. Hanukkah sells well in some regions of the country, and Unique has introduced a new ‘Festive Hanukkah' pattern to fill this niche."
Set the Merry Mood
So how can retailers set a merry mood without freezing up the budget? Balloons are a great way to inexpensively decorate, making it possible to stretch a party budget. They're symbols of celebration and meant to be used together with other products you already sell to create a memorable party experience.
"With weeks of flying time (when properly inflated), see-through Qualatex Bubble Balloons are a wonderful accent to any winter décor and an excellent value," Flynn said. "Add a few contemporary multi-colored trees, some fake snow, plus snowflakes of all sizes made with the non-round balloons and the winter party theme begins to appear. Retailers should also use these ideas to decorate their stores."
Consumers will linger longer (and maybe spend more) if they can spend a few moments in a pleasant environment, relaxing from their ultra-busy schedules. Beer recommends retailers cultivate a festive atmosphere with minimal expense and focused effort by:
• Integrating solid colors with Christmas décor - traditional red and green streamers or bold blue and white ribbon pairings.
• Making sure holiday music is on the store radio.
• Placing inexpensive cinnamon or pine scented air-fresheners throughout the store.
• Hanging paper snowflakes from the ceiling with shimmering foil ribbon.
• Using cutouts, banners and clings to decorate store windows.
• Wrapping empty boxes of various sizes with colorful giftwrap and stacking them at the entranceway.
With non-stop parties at school, home and office, paper tableware is in strong demand. Beer recommends retailers offer an assortment of designs with the most popular motifs - seasonal greenery, shiny trees, classic poinsettias, cheery snowmen, shimmering snowflakes and jolly Santas.
In addition, holiday decorations are important for every holiday party - cutouts, window clings, centerpieces, banners, door posters and hanging decorations should all be available and visible to shoppers.
"Gift packaging items remain high-volume sellers, as holiday gift-giving extends from family members to co-workers," Beer added. "Holiday wine bags are extremely popular, and we've added four new styles to our selection of festive Christmas gift bags available in six different sizes and many motifs. Also, printed Cello bags fly off shelves as consumers fill with all kinds of items for stockings or school/office parties."
Grab And Go
In the holiday rush, busy consumers are happy to "grab-and-go" if they find the right combination of products for parties and decorating. Beer suggests red and green plates and napkins be placed in alternate layers with elegant printed designs to create an attractive hostess basket.
"Tie with a ribbon and sell as a single-price unit, or stack packages of paperware nearby for quick sales," she added. "The same goes for red and green tissue sheets paired with printed gift bags, solid beads and garland merchandised with fancier decorations."
As for balloons, Flynn said there are two simple ideas that every party store should offer: "Party Balls" and "Party Bursts." A Party Ball is essentially a topiary made with 12 latex balloons of your choice-solid colors, snowflake prints, etc.
"Tethered with clear monofilament line or decorated with streamers, helium-filled Party Balls are perfect for floating about a room and can also be air-filled and hung from the ceiling with monofilament," Flynn said. "Add ribbon streamers for a fun walk-through path in the winter wonderland party scene."
The Party Bursts are made using the same technique as the Party Balls, but with 27-inch Microfoil Tapers instead. This Microfoil topiary ball can be made of one color, or a combination of several colors. Gold or silver with black is a timeless New Years' combination, but bright magenta, orange and lime with black is another trend that continues to sell well.
"Display one or two styles of each of these in your store, and you'll see a constant stream of orders for grab ‘n' go décor, including Party Burst or Party Ball table centerpieces," Flynn added.
Consumers can create eye-catching, festive holiday décor with party products value priced for high volume sales, without paying top-of-the-line pricing. Regardless of the holiday, festive doesn't have to mean expensive.
By Abby Heugel