As Christmas approaches, retailers across the world are making their lists and checking them twice to ensure they have enough booty on the shelves for customers. Everyone hopes that this year will be their best – high sales and high profits. Who could wish for anything more?
Well, my wish to you is that along with the spirit of spending and cash registers ringing, please take time to put some spirit of Christmas into your stores and your hearts, and that you continue that spirit throughout the year.
How can you say “thank-you” to your customers and draw in some new ones? Here’s some suggestions to make Christmas truly a time of not just receiving, but of giving back to those who give to you – your customers. They are your business. Here’s some simple suggestions:
1. Put on the pot: “Let is snow” is fine for Christmas carols, but for stressed-out shoppers trailing a gaggle of grumpy children, a nice hot cup of coffee, cider (non alcoholic of course) or hot chocolate, along with some Christmas cookies would be welcomed with open arms and hearts. There is nothing more welcoming to a tired mom walking into a store, drenched with rain or covered in snow, to be greeted by a free hot cup of something warm. Your kindness will not be forgotten.
2. Gift-wrap purchases: Armed with tape, reams and rolls of paper, boxes, tags, scissors and frayed tempers, traditionally it’s mom who stays up late night after night wrapping a truckload of presents. We hate it! Offer to gift-wrap purchases, and to make it even more in the spirit of Christmas, do it by donation for a local food bank, children’s fund raiser or Christmas hamper. Not many people will refuse.
3. Start a hamper: It doesn’t take much to set up a basket for a food hamper for less fortunate families. Your local family services bureau will find you a deserving family to support. Contact customers to let them know they can drop items off and add it to all your advertising. If you don’t collect much, then fill the hamper yourself – you’ll feel pretty darn good about it.
4. Hold a Christmas event: The best money-generating event that a local pottery galley held in my home town was to host a weekend of Indian cooking demonstrations. It was such a strange combination – curry and crockery. They informed the local press, got a whole page coverage, and the store was crammed with people who loved the event.
Why can’t your store do something different like this? The smell of food always attracts people, nothing beats a cooking demo for pulling in a crowd. The event could be How to Survive Christmas Cooking for Busy People and feature delicious, easy to prepare Christmas appetizers. Perhaps there’s a catering company, bakery, cooking school or similar business needing some exposure. It’s worth a try.
5. Send cards: Of course, you have maintained a customer database, so buy quality Christmas cards, sit down in the evenings and start handwriting them for your customers. Thank them for their business. People love to be remembered by merchants, it’s a nice way of saying “we care about you.” Include a small printed invitation to pop by the store for hot chocolate, cookies, food hamper donations, the special event and gift-wrapping, and include a ten percent discount coupon to be used by December 24th. Send your cards out late November or early December.
6. Offer a pick-up and delivery service: Send a mail-out (or e-mail) to your customers in early November, reminding them that household appliances work overtime during the Christmas season and may need a service, either before or after Christmas. Offer a pick-up and delivery service to ease the stress of having to drop the equipment off. Hire a young person needing a few Christmas dollars to do the pick-ups. Your customers will love you. Dropping appliances off to be serviced is the last thing they want to be bothered with, so take this stress away and gain their loyalty.
7. Tell the world: Although these ideas should be instigated from the goodness of your heart and with unselfish Christmas spirit, there is no harm in telling your community what you are doing. Christmas or not, you have to promote an event or an idea for it to succeed. So splash these wonderful incentives across your window in large letters and in all your Christmas advertising.
Because you are doing something for your community with the food hamper, gift-wrapping, special event and donations, send a press release to your local paper so that the word gets out. Drop off flyers at community bulletin boards and anywhere else you think suitable. Let your community know that you care about them, not just at Christmas – but always.
Frances McGuckin is a professional speaker, trainer, consultant and author of Business for Beginners and Big Ideas for Growing Your Small Business. She can be reached at 1-888-771-2771, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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