How the Dealer Stole Christmas

Holiday marketing and merchandising strategies to lure customers away from the retail giants and into your dealership.

Are you maximizing your advertising efforts to bring in existing customers while attracting new customers? While you might not be advertising on a regular basis this holiday season, you know who is? Best Buy is advertising plasma screen TVs; Dick’s Sporting Goods is advertising hunting supplies; Lowe’s is advertising the latest in power tools; and Apple is touting its new iPhone 5.

What these retailers are doing is stealing your lunch and dinner. All of these retailers are selling products that we as consumers don’t really need! I don’t need a new plasma TV or a fishing rod any more than I need a motorcycle or a new jacket. As a retailer, you must create the need and turn it into an “I want” in the customer’s mind, just like the retail giants. You can compete with the big box stores by creating a dynamic promotional advertising and event calendar for the next two months.

To get a jump on the competition, you must first make a plan. There are several ways to get your message out that won’t break the bank as long as you do your homework and get everyone involved to buy into the plan. For example, are you using your co-op dollars to the fullest?

Store Review and Analysis

I’d like to ask you to take a hard look at your store. I want you to conduct a store review and analysis to see where your store stands in the eyes of your customers in terms of appearance, selection of products and depth of products. Have you ordered enough merchandise to meet customer’s expectations and demands for this holiday season? Is your store up to the customer’s standards for a clean, comfortable shopping environment both inside and out?

Plan a Holiday Calendar

Take a look at the next two months to create your holiday merchandising and sales calendar. Planning for the holidays will help prepare you and your staff to ensure the probability of a successful event. If at all possible, have something going on every week leading up to Christmas, with no fewer than two to three promotional events per month.

November To-Dos

Week 1: Set up your Christmas displays. Have a fall ATV/off-road merchandise and accessories sale.

Week 2: Have a salute to the troops Veteran’s Day Sale

Week 3: Have a customer appreciation two-day sale to get a jump on the “Black Friday” business. I had a client who held this event for three years in a row, and the sales were phenomenal.

Week 4: Plan for “Black Friday” to double your efforts for the month. If you only plan one sales event this year, this is it! You must compete with the big box and chain stores, or your customers will swipe their credit cards elsewhere! Black Friday is a great way to clear out your store of old, obsolescent or overstock merchandise. It’s also a great time to bring in manufacturer overstock merchandise at discounted pricing such as helmets, boots, bike covers and other stocking stuffer merchandise. The old adage in retail rings true during the holidays: “Stack ‘em high, watch them buy.”

December To-Dos

Week 1: Hold a Ladies Night. Bring in snacks and drinks and have an early Christmas party for the ladies. This important demographic represents 40 percent of new riders, and they make the final household decision on a whopping 70 percent of big-ticket bike, watercraft or ATV sales. Hold the event after closing and consider holding a fashion show to make a real splash. Don’t forget to have the ladies fill out wish list cards that you can keep on file. Showcase men’s and youth apparel as well as women’s gear to cash in on mom’s Christmas list. 

Week 2: Turn the tables and hold a Men’s Night event — now is when you’ll share those wish list cards with the husbands, so they’ll buy the gift their wife really wants this year!

Week 3:
Start your year-end clearance sale early to make sure you are out of 2011 merchandise so you can start fresh come  2012.

Week 4: Create an ad featuring gift items under $200, $100, $50 and $25 to capture those last-minute Christmas sales, especially on Christmas Eve.

Week 5: Continue your year-end clearance.

As you plan your Holiday calendar, keep in mind that there will be a need for adjustments and changes. Have weekly meetings with your staff to go over each week’s ad specials, even if it’s an unadvertised sale. Use a printed sales flyer as a bag stuffer for upcoming events and sales. Find the budget to run a one- or two-page ad in the Thanksgiving pre-Black Friday newspaper to get your store noticed. Offer free gift-wrapping and have coffee and doughnuts on the weekends for the early-bird shoppers. Place hand baskets throughout your store to increase impulse sales.

I hope this guide helps you as you plan your Holiday Calendar to have the best holiday selling season ever!

Jim Ramus is the president of Retail Design Associates. He conducts numerous store design and merchandising training programs and workshops for retail trade show organizations and associations throughout the United States. He has designed over 2,000 specialty retail stores throughout the United States. He Is the coauthor of Winning in Retailing, originally published in 1994 and Winning in Power Sports Retailing published in 2006. Contact Jim at [email protected].   


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