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Got Fashion? Consider These Ideas

Friday, October 2, 2009

Got Fashion? Consider These Ideas(GIFTBEAT)Fashion accessories remain a "great choice for gift shops" because of their high markup potential and the fact that these impulse items rarely have to be put on sale, notes T.J. Reid, Louisiana-based editor of the Fashion Advantage newsletter and retail consultant to the fashion and gift industries. This month, Reid speaks to contributing editor Sharon Bopp about top suggestions for fashion accessories promotions developed by Reid and her retail clients.

Q. What types of 4th quarter promotions can you suggest to our readers?

A. In the clothing industry, most retailers have frequent buyer or loyalty reward plans. [The plans] usually entail giving the stores' best customers a free gift, which is typically done in December. When gifts are given in December, about 40% of customers will come in for their gift because if they're a frequent buyer, they'll be shopping the store that month.

A shopper's favorite four-letter word is "free," and that's so much truer in this economy. A free gift [promotion] may be limited to the first 25 people, run for 10 days or be a three-day "free gift with $100 purchase" event. If you limit gifts, have extras in back so you don't insult a very good customer who comes in late.

I encourage everybody in the gift industry to have an ornament tree filled with ornaments that follow the store's theme for that Christmas, like angels, peppermints or the color lime green. That can be your gift or "gift with purchase" for special customers. Send a letter inviting customers to come into the store to receive a free ornament valued at $15 to $18. Retailers should be able to find something in the $5 range that has that perceived value. When the customer comes in, tell her "I have a gift for you." Let the customer take an ornament off the tree. This tells a customer "She cares enough about me that I get to select my own gift!" You've made a friend for life. And of course the idea is to get people into your store.

Another good idea for a "gift with purchase" promotion is called a "Wrap It Up" event. The "wrap" is a new type of smaller pashmina. Its cost is so affordable that stores should be able to find one in about the $6 range that will allow for a 300% markup—most retailers are charging $24 retail. (Suggested source: Mam' Designs,, 800-929-0780.) One such promotion used a postcard that said "Wrap It Up," showing a girl wearing a wrap as well as the variety of available colors. The event can be that customers receive a free fall/winter wrap valued at $24 with any $250 purchase. That's so much better than giving customers 10% off. A lot of stores are giving the free wrap with a $100 purchase. That's still a cost of only 6% of sales for giving a $6 item with a $100 purchase.

I encourage my retail clients to create a shirt that says "Dear Santa, I want it all from XYZ Store." It's just a fun shirt. People who wouldn't normally wear T-shirts will wear these. They can be given free with a certain dollar purchase or to the first 100 people on a certain day. The T-shirts can be made for $5 each almost anyplace. For $500, you can buy 100 shirts that would give your store more publicity than an ad ever would.

Q. What are some event ideas for the first few weeks after Christmas?

A. Plan an event for the first day that children go back to school after the Christmas holiday. It could be a "Margarita Monday for Mom." Or design a postcard that shows a lady taking ornaments off her tree. Call the event "Packin' It In" and create it to remind customers that "Christmas is over, but we're still here."

One of my retail clients realized she had bought way too many postcards of Santa that included a $5 "Christmas Cash" store coupon. She mailed the postcards after Christmas, too, with a note that read "Darling, you thought Christmas was over, but it never is at XYZ Store. Please bring this coupon in before February 14 and receive the same discount. Every day is Christmas at XYZ Store." She found a clever way to use the leftover promotion material, [realizing] that a lot of people keep Christmas in their hearts forever.

Q. What events work well for Valentine's Day and spring?

A. I encourage my retail clients to have a Valentine's Day tree with heart decorations, and to give chocolate truffles as a "gift with purchase" or a welcome into the store. A Valentine's Day cross-promotion for men brings together the gift store and a florist and pharmacy. Women like candy and flowers, but most gift stores don't sell all the items. Cross-promote to get a single red rose from the florist and a truffle or candy bar from the pharmacy. The man can give [the recipient] a complete package—a $25 store gift certificate, candy and flowers. Since the florist might not get a lot of add-on sales because your customers are just stopping by to pick up a flower, you may have to pay the florist $1 for a flower that costs $2.

One retailer carried a line of "trashy" lingerie for Valentine's Day. She had a party for her women customers where they could buy a lingerie item and get a cute, sexy photo of themselves wearing the lingerie for free. Photos were taken by a female photographer who came to the store, and then printed on a portable printer in the store. Customers could give them to their men as a special Valentine's Day gift. Retailers could also sell robes or Velcro bath wraps for this promotion.

For spring, host a "Tee Party" trunk show. Bring in an assortment of T-shirts in different sizes from one or several vendors and let customers place orders. These parties have really caught on with one retailer. Tea is usually served. They're another way of saying "Come by the store" and "Come buy something."

Q. What other events work well throughout the year?

A. Some stores are doing "Sock It to Me" promotions reminiscent of the 1970s and [the TV show] Laugh-In. They're giving [a pair of] novelty socks as a "gift with purchase," whether or not they carry shoes. It's fun because we're looking at the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. It's time to go down memory lane. People want to go back in time when they were happy and times were better, in their minds. You could have employees dress up in '70s clothing from a vintage store. Also, put confetti in a bucket and toss it on customers like Laugh-In [characters] used to do with water. I recommend socks with whimsical designs sold by Foot Traffic (, 800-789-3668). One store had a "Kiss Up" promotion using white socks with lips all over them from Foot Traffic. The company also does fabulous socks for St. Patrick's Day and breast cancer awareness.

Another fashion accessories store trying to create add-ons to sales tickets did a "Give Me Five" promotion. When customers walked in, employees would slap hands with them and say "Give me five." It was something to be cute. Customers buying one item received 5% off their most expensive item; with two items, they received 10% off; all the way up to five items with 50% off the most expensive item.

I got the idea for "Charming Parties" grandmother events after taking my three granddaughters into a Brighton store. Two hours later, we left with three bracelets with four charms each! These are starter parties, where you invite five grandmothers to bring one or two of their granddaughters. Grandmothers buy the bracelets and the granddaughters get to pick out the charms. This event is usually done after hours and limited to a certain number of people. You can also create Charming Cards for gift giving, listing what charms [a customer] has and would like to have.

Editor's Note: Reid's book "What Mother Never Told You About Promotions" can be purchased at

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Categories we're tracking
In This Month's

  • Summer/Seasonal
  • Message Gifts
  • Stationery Accessories
  • Non-Jar Candles
  • T-shirts
  • Fashion Accessories
  • Reorders
  • Personal Care

While coloring books and related products were all the rage in Stationery Accessories last year, this year it's back to basics: note cards, journals and planners.

* Every month Giftbeat tracks sales in a a variety of product categories (more than 50 categories throughout the year). SIGN UP NOW to receive this vital information on which gift items are moving off store shelves.