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How do you plan to make the holiday season successful in spite of continuing lean times?

Stephanie Fleishman

Stephanie Fleishman

Stephanie Fleishman, 2910 on the Square, Canton, MD

I am continuing to bring in reasonably priced gift items — less than $50. And I am still contemplating whether or not I'm going to the gift show or save the money on travel and just order from the huge consideration pile on my desk. Also in light of the economy we have picked up a lot of consignment artists. My consignment has tripled in the last year, which is great because you don't have to pay until it sells. Consignment isn't necessarily at a higher price point: We have jewelry artists whose pieces sell from $30 retail up to $150. And we've taken on a local guy who is now our second largest dealer. This man licensed the face of the Natty Bo guy [mascot of locally brewed National Bohemian beer] and he put it on t-shirts and things. We're selling hundreds and hundreds of dollars of this merchandise every month. We're continuing our Constant Contact monthly email newsletters. We used to send out postcards but we've cut out the postage. We offer a coupon every month and usually we do 10 percent off in December. Last year we did the 12 days of Christmas and eight days of Hannukah email offers on a different item each day; I may do that again. Those are the plans as of right now, and to pray that the economy gets better and stay positive.

Linda Austin

Linda Austin

Linda Austin, Tesoro Mio, Coronado, CA

We are tightening our belts and becoming more choosy in our offerings. We are spending fewer dollars and buying more affordable merchandise whose price points, we hope, will meet and satisfy our customer. We are also trying something new: taking artisan works on consignment so that we can have more items available, but we as a business will not have to do a cash outlay. This appears to be working. People like to hear that some items they purchase are made by local artists. We have not yet worked out our marketing for the actual holiday season. We are waiting to see how our summer progresses and then we will decide what needs to be done to boost our sales during the winter. We have seen a difference in our sales, and they are down from previous years. I'm waiting to hear more concrete financial reports on how the country is doing before I decide how to work on my holiday sales. I will probably pursue the same road I am on now: Spend less, take in more artisan works. We will probably do some event planning, a cocktail party, special evening shopping. My main goal is to stay in business. Hopefully, next year we will see an upswing and more customer confidence in the economy.

Gene Oberhauser

Gene Oberhauser

Gene Oberhauser, Imagine Gift Store, Warren, RI

We try to set our store apart from competitors. We are putting out one to two helium-filled balloons a day to attract attention. Once the customer opens our front door, they are greeted by a talking butler and impulse products, which in our case is a penny candy department. The goal is to create a fun and colorful atmosphere, which helps sell merchandise. It makes the first-time customer want to venture further into the store and explore. We're going to bring back our loyalty card: 20 $5 punches equals $5 off. An inexpensive two-sided rack card that advertises our store is in the works. It will be left at hotels, town hall, etc. at a cost of seven cents. Our customer email program is going back on a schedule. We love to smile and say "hi" to everyone. Too many stores don't look too kindly on kids. If it's genuine, parents love it and become loyal customers. We ask vendors for raffle prizes, so we can support local events, charities and schools.

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