Archive for the ‘Holiday Sales’ Category

Gene Schulist, School-Pak, Inc

It’s getting a little rough out here as a small business.

First we have to fight off the big guys, Wal-Mart, KMart, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, etc. You know you’re not getting the same prices as these guys. Plus, being a small business, you have no clout with insurance companies, elected officials, banks, government bodies, etc.

We just have to weather the storms and keep doing our best because, usually, it’s much better than the big guys.

But here comes one more way to get us.

Have you taken a look lately at what your bank is charging for processing your credit cards? Those rates are way out of line.

Someone used a Visa card? OK, how about 2.4 percent of the sale going back to the credit card company. Wait a minute. They actually used a “Rewards” card? OK, how about 2.55 percent of the purchase price. No, they used a “Rewards” card with their dog’s picture on it. How about 2.62 percent?

Get the picture?

Not only do they charge the customer up to 29 percent interest for their purchase, but they charge you too! So you lose even more on your “sale” price you went to so you could compete against Wal-Mart. Do you think they pay the same rate? Are there aliens walking around Roswell?

Dealing with schools are even harder. 68 percent of every dollar spent at a local store stays in the community. Only 32 percent of dollars spent at Wal-Mart (or other big chain stores) stay in the community. The other 36 percent are on the train to Wal-Mart offices in Arkansas.

The Obama administration is looking at ways to help small businesses. Perhaps finding a way that all businesses are treated equally. I know that people are treated that way under the Constitution (or at least are supposed to be). Shouldn’t small business people be treated that way as well?

That means the same tax breaks, employment laws, purchasing power, price protection, free shipping, etc. should come to us as it does to KMart or Target. I’d love to compete on a level playing ground. How about you?

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Rebecca Haden, A Plus Educational

Some school supply stores get quiet about now. The one I work for is different. We have toys and games, so we get to participate in the Christmas shopping rush.

For all my fellow retail mavens, I offer this handy guide to Christmas shoppers:

The Delighted Chirper

This shopper is usually seen in October, happily chirping over some toy that will be perfect for her grandchild. By now, this shopper will have sent out her cards and put her wrapped gifts under the tree, and will have begun baking cookies. If you’re lucky, she’ll bring some in for us, too, and play a round of Blokus with the staff, creating extra demand for a game that can make somebody that happy.

The Frazzled Mom

This shopper can be recognized by a certain wildness around the eyes. Oh, and the children she’s dragging along, at least some of whom will be crying even before they get smacked. She may run through several credit cards, forget how to spell her name when she’s trying to write a check, or cry. The best plan for this shopper is to keep chocolate under the counter and slip her some.

The Pinchfaced Haggler

This shopper may not be pinchfaced at all, but may cause you to become pinchfaced as he jovially shouts “How low will you go?” and points out imagined flaws in the merchandise. If you can keep your good humor throughout the transaction, he may buy his gifts with you. The pinchfaced variety will keep fussing while you wrap everything up, so you might as well just hum Christmas carols to yourself and ignore it.

The Clueless Uncle

Sometimes this shopper is an aunt, or a grandfather or something, but a general air of helplessness and uncertainty about children is always a primary characteristic. You see this shopper frowning slightly and waving a 5-piece puzzle around saying, “Would this be a good choice for a twelve year old?” This shopper should have something appropriate placed firmly in his grateful grasp.

The Bountiful Giftgiver

This shopper is businesslike, sharing his gift list with you and accepting your excellent suggestions. By the time he leaves, possibly with a line of store staff following behind him carrying bags of goodies to his vehicle, you will feel better about Christmas shoppers in general.

The Child

Little children who have saved up their allowances in order to buy their brothers and sisters a carefully-selected assortment of tiny presents should be welcomed heartily and allowed to spend all the time they need making these important decisions. With your support, they will become the best Christmas shoppers of all when they grow up.

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Rebecca Haden

A Plus Educational, Harrison, AR



The holidays are approaching, and retailers in our industry face the annual uncertainty about how we should approach the holidays. Where many stores are piling Halloween decorations high in the prime selling space with Christmas and Thanksgiving already festooning the side aisles, parent-teacher stores have to bring out crystal balls to make ordering decisions.

Will this be one of those years when school administrators forbid all holiday decorations, or one of those when dozens of teachers boldly put up Nativity bulletin boards? Will anyone bother to decorate for Thanksgiving this year, or will they go directly from autumn harvest to mittens?  Will these be one of those years when we have to reorder dreidels twice, or one of those when we pack away the entire first order in January?

Halloween is a highly controversial holiday in some neighborhoods. While churches in our area usually had Halloween celebrations up through the first half of the 20th century, some Christian families now consider it a pagan or even satanic celebration, and do not want their kids involved in any observation of it in the classroom.

There are also Wiccan and pagan parents who claim it as a religious holiday. This side of the controversy hasn’t come up in our region yet, but in other parts of the country, there are objections to the secular — and some would say inaccurate — celebrations that are usual in schools.

Thanksgiving isn’t so controversial, but some schools shut down for the entire week and some teachers don’t feel it’s worth the bother of decorating for such a brief celebratory season, especially when the malls will start playing “The Little Drummer Boy” before the Trick or Treaters leave the building.

Christmas waxes and wanes in classroom popularity, some years creating a major focal point for lessons as well as decorating, and some years getting tucked discreetly in among the “winter holidays.”

How can we avoid either running out of holiday merchandise or having to put too much on clearance at the end of the season?

We can go ahead and celebrate. These are American holidays, after all, and many have been celebrated as secular festivals for centuries. We can boldly bring in all the most fun holiday stuff, celebrate unabashedly ourselves, and hope our pleasure in any and all the celebrations carries over into sales.

This is my favorite option, because I like a good party, and as an American I feel that I can take part in all of them out of appreciation for my nation’s diversity.

I remember one year selling a Christmas stocking kit to a grandmother.

“Is one enough?” I asked her, seeing how excited she was about making it with her grandchild.

She frowned in thought for a moment. “Probably,” she decided, “since we’re Jewish.”

Being prepared to share everyone’s pleasure may be more respectful of diversity than eschewing all the holidays.

We can also finesse it.

Instead of “Happy Halloween” items in the Halloween display, put all the materials on the skeletal system, pumpkins, and bats. Orange and black paper draw it all together, and if this is a year when our customers are skipping Halloween, we can put it all back into the science section on All Saint’s Day without making any fuss about it.

For Thanksgiving, use Stone Soup, materials on Native Americans and Colonial America, and things about families. Tuck leftovers back into the social studies section in December. We can make a wintry display with blue and white that will be comfortable for both Hanukah and Christmas, or use red and green and forest scenes to evoke a noncommittal Christmas feeling and still be ready for a quick change in time for Kwanzaa.

A crystal ball and plenty of colors of paper and ribbon, that’s what it takes.



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Mark Mallardi and Kent Brings

Educational Insights – NSSEA Member Supplier


With the Holiday Season almost upon us, a key issue confronting Educational Supply dealers is finding effective methods of driving store traffic during this critical selling period.  Following are a series of tactics, some time-tested and proven, others more novel and experimental, that you might want to employ to increase foot traffic to your store:


1. Host a game tournament in-store. 

Game enthusiasts can be your best advocates.  Staging a tournament in-store, with multiple rounds of game play leading to the emergence of a single Tournament Winner (or perhaps multiple Tournament Winners at varying ages and skill levels), and the subsequent awarding of prizes to the winner(s), can create a great deal of buzz, anticipation, and excitement around the retail shopping experience.


2. Perform hands-on product demonstrations. 

A sure-fire way to showcase products, and to encourage customers to “test drive” those products, is to have your staff provide live product demonstrations in-store.  With a small time investment to train your staff in the use of those products, you can create a fun, interactive shopping experience for your customers.


3. Send out an email blast to customers and prospects. 

Using either your “house list” of customer email addresses (if you’ve compiled one), or a rental list of email addresses that you obtain from an outside mailing list vendor, you can send out an email announcement – containing digital photos of featured products, product demonstration videos, etc. – that announces upcoming price specials, promotions, and events occurring at your store. 


4. Send out a direct mail postcard to customers and prospects. 

Postcard mailings are effective due to the fact that, unlike a traditional direct mail piece that’s delivered in an envelope and has to be opened by the recipient, postcards require no effort on the part of the recipient to see them, and are therefore very conspicuous in the recipient’s mailbox.  Using your “house list” of loyal customers, or perhaps a rental list of families with children living within your trading area, you can inexpensively bulk mail an attention-getting postcard that announces price specials, promotions, and events occurring at your store. 


5. Distribute a flyer announcing upcoming events at your store. 

Flyers are an inexpensive way to get the word out.  You can create an eye-catching flyer and distribute it to passers-by outside your store, post it on all of the public bulletin boards within your trading area, and make it available at community centers, restaurants, parks, schools, sports arenas, movie theaters, chambers of commerce, and any other public gathering areas within a reasonable distance from your store.  A digital version of the flyer can also be uploaded to community bulletin board websites, in order to reach an even broader audience. 



6. Create a contest that rewards customers for visiting your store. 

Offer customers the opportunity to be entered into daily prize drawings simply by visiting your store and providing their contact information on a response card.  By offering this as a daily prize drawing, it encourages repeat visits to your store, and the “opt-in” contact information you’ll collect as a result can then be used for your future marketing efforts.  Post the names of the winners both in-store and online, as doing so will provide them a reason to visit your website, and yet another reason to visit your store.


7. Create unique content and upload it to your website – or to YouTube. 

It’s never been easier to create promotional content for your business, and to distribute that content to a broad audience, via video, digital photos, and even simple animations.  The advent of YouTube and other video-centric “social networking” websites has made available an effective, low-cost means of distributing visual media to the masses.  With a digital camera and/or a camcorder, you have everything you need to shoot product demonstrations, testimonials, virtual store tours, and other promotional pieces that can then be easily uploaded and “broadcast” on YouTube, and on your own website.


8. Invite customers to submit their own creations, for display in-store or online.

Creative play and arts/crafts are especially popular around the Holidays.  Provide customers the opportunity to create their own original works of art using arts and crafts products that they’ve purchased at your store, and to submit their creations to you for display in-store, or to submit them in the form of digital images that can be put on “virtual display” on your website.  For example, we offer our PlayFoam Creativity Kit, which contains 9 bricks of our PlayFoam remoldable sculpting beads, and all of the necessary accessories – wiggly eyes, pipe cleaners, feathers, glittery pom-poms, yarn, jewels, etc. – to make dozens of original creations.  Your customers can use this kit to bring out their “inner artist”, and then to have their work put on display, either in-store or online.


9. Issue a press release to local media regarding events to be held at your store. 

Using a standard template into which you drop your store’s contact information, you can easily issue a press release to local media announcing the events to be held at your store over the Holiday Season.  It may catch the eye of your local newspaper or radio station, and result in valuable free publicity for your store.


These are just some of the possibilities.  Remember to be creative and to take advantage of all of the means at your disposal to generate the awareness, buzz, and excitement that will lead to pleasant returns this Holiday season!



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With all the recalls being made on Chinese-made toy products, how have you been preparing for the holiday season? Happily, shoppers turned out by the millions to take advantage of Black Friday weekend deals. The National Retail Federation reported over 147 million shoppers in stores this past weekend; an increase of almost 5 percent over last year’s Black Friday.


On the down side, on average, customers spent approximately $347, which is 3.5 percent lower than last year, but up 14.8 percent in comparison to 2005. According to NRF’s survey, over 55 percent of consumers looked to discount retailers for the best deals, nearly 39 percent shopped at department locations, more than 43 percent shopped at specialty stores, and about 32 percent shopped online.


Are you taking out a few extra (or a few less) ads, investing in American-made toys, or going about business as usual? Did you host any toy specials for Black Friday, and if so, what were the fruits of your effort? Will you do the same for the upcoming holidays? How do you think the CPSC Reform Act will affect fourth quarter sales? Speak out and confer with others about the measures you’re taking during these business altering times.

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