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The changing of the seasons are a great excuse to re-merchandise your store, moving displays around and adding some new colors and themes. Even if you don't sell seasonal merchandise, such as the Halloween goods in our shop display (above), you can give your store a fresh look with autumn leaves and pumpkins. With consumers often complaining that Christmas comes too early in retail stores, it doesn't hurt to acknowledge that autumn comes first.
In addition to seasonal themed displays, you might consider doing some promotions tied to Halloween or Thanksgiving. We are planning on doing a new one this year in conjunction with United Way. We know that college students and even some adults love to dress up, but are too old to go trick or treating. We plan to sell $5 treat bags, with the proceeds going to United Way, and having as many Monroe Street merchants as possible volunteer to be "treat stops". By limiting the number of bags sold, we'll be able to predict how much candy (or non-candy giveaways) we'll need.
Our business neighbors on State Street in Madison started doing a Family Halloween event for children a few years ago during the day on the Friday afternoon before Halloween (which is often a day when there is no school here in Wisconsin). This trick or treat event has grown to be a huge draw for them, so they supplement candy treats with music and other children's activities.
Pumpkins are of course a big part of the fall season, and a smaller community might sponsor a jack-o-lantern carving competition, with all the pumpkins lit one evening for everyone to see. Some towns sponsor a fall festival event with a costume parade and, games for children, and corn stalks decorating the lamp posts. (We did this one year and forgot to arrange to take them down before the snow flew, which was not good.) Our local stilts walker has a scarecrow costume perfect for fall events -- as well as a bat for those who want something scarier.
We encourage our employees to dress in costume on Halloween, even if they just wear a funny hat or a big spider pin. Nothing too frightening, of course. Not all shoppers who come into the store are in the Halloween spirit, and we don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.
Two ideas that I love from The Crafty Retailer blog by Pat Riesenburger, a Florida fiber artist: print Halloween themed wrappers with your logo on them on your computer to fit over mini Hershey bars (with a few of them including a special coupon); or host a pet/baby costume contest. What a great idea for creating buzz for your Facebook page and other social media!
If you need some additional ideas for fall promotions, I encourage you to look at this list of 50 Halloween Promotional Ideas to Scare Up More Opportunities created by Guardian Packaging of Wilder, KY. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more of the suppliers in our industry went to the effort of sharing promotional ideas with their retailers?