From One Retailer to Another: Best Tips for Holiday Success
One retailer shares her strategies for shopping market, planning for holiday, and decorating trees.“We have between 15-20 trees every year in the store” explains Julie Lewis, merchandiser/buyer at Housewarmings in Lexington, Kentucky. Houswarmings is a 6,000 square foot Outdoor furniture store plus a 5,000 sq. ft. Fireplace and Hearth shop. They sell everything from Outdoor furnishings and accessories to “All things fireplace”, Grills, and the Big Green Egg, in addition to Christmas décor! They even have a full time chef on hand to do cooking classes using their Big Green Egg, Grills and gourmet spices, sauces, etc.
With all that space for their Christmas trees and holiday decor, planning for, and keeping organized during holiday is quite a job. Here are Julie’s tips for success:
- Sell only upscale holiday ornaments, no plastic, focus on collectibles and unique ornaments to differentiate your store from big box retailers
- Use a triple mark-up on products. This will allow you to discount Christmas items at the end of year without losing money
- Create a strict inventory system and stick to it. Julie keeps track of the exact number of items she has down to the broken ornament when trimming a tree so that she knows what is selling and what she can reuse the following year; keeping this updated in the store’s business system.
- Speaking of reusing ornaments, Julie’s secret is to use leftover ornaments from the previous year in a new themed tree. Gold ornaments from 5 Golden Rings become the background for The Nutcracker the next year.
- To encourage shopping Julie puts baskets below the tree where excess ornaments placed. She even includes left-over inventory of 1-3 ornaments from the previous year if they connect to the theme.
Now, about Julie’s big book:
- “People Laugh at me” Julie explains, “but I bring a giant notebook with tab for each of the trees and a list of their ornaments to include (vendor name, item number, cost, picture and quantity left in inventory) so I know what I want to buy and what I can use in NEW themes!”
- Before placing any orders, Julie likes to spend the first day of Market scouting new themes and unique items.
- When she returned from market, all new purchases are entered into their business system and purchase orders created. Then she begins the process to update her “giant notebook” for the new themes for the New Year – moving items from the previous year into the new themes.
- When the new items begin to arrive they are received and checked in their business system and also checked against the sheets she’s created for each tree. This helps her know if any items are back-ordered or simply not available.
And on to decorating the tree!
- “First of all, decorating a tree is a two-person job” explains Julie. She has all the decorations for each tree put on individual numbered pallets – these are brought to the corresponding numbered tree location; she unpacks the ornaments, checking that they are priced, while the other person sets up and “phoofs” the tree.
- If an item breaks while the tree is being put up she removes it from inventory immediately. “I allow myself one broken ornament per tree” Julie jokes.
- Julie likes to get creative with some of her trees. “I’ve created a garden tree with wreaths and large bird houses, an Equestrian tree with red roses, (they are located in Lexington, Kentucky!) even a Peacock tree with feathers – floral flowers and stems make a huge difference and help to fill in the tree. I also like to insert large items like lighted prints, signs, items you’d think would maybe sit on a shelf, and these add so much excitement.”
- Often, you’ll find ribbon on Julie’s trees. “I use ribbon for accent. Just pieces of ribbon curling out here and there, verses bows.” She does it this way “to save money on ribbon” which couldn’t be sold once used.
From inventory organization to holiday inspiration, Julie keeps the holiday ball rolling at Housewarmings and was thrilled to share her strategies with other retailers. Her final thoughts on the subject: “We have a long process but when you see the customer’s faces…. it’s worth it!”
Have a compliment for Julie? Want to share your holiday tips and tricks? We’d love to hear from you in comments section below!