Spring planning comes before spring cleaning

When the hectic holiday season finally ends it is time for a breather. The pace slows. There is time to relax somewhat, take a deep breath, and get ready for spring, the next peak season.

Traditionally retail traffic slows after the start of the new year and January through April remain quiet. This mid-winter lull is a good time to catch up on the routine items that may have slipped during the holiday season. Pack away and store unsold holiday merchandise. Thoroughly clean the store. Neaten displays. Rearrange merchandise and displays. If something has been in the same spot for more than a year, move it. Customers will sense something has changed in your store. It will look fresh and different even with the same merchandise.

The mid-winter lull allows time to plan and prepare for a booming spring season. Fewer customers frees up some time to work on your spring product selection. Review new catalogs. Visit web sites. Attending conferences, such as BirdWatch America, introduces the latest products. Now is the time to develop the marketing and merchandising programs that will make your spring a success.

Although the slower mid-winter pace may feel like a welcome break, it is bad for business. Fewer customers mean lower sales revenue. Yet your basic expenses do not take a break. You will soon be longing for the busier days of spring to arrive. So why wait until spring to implement marketing programs to attract customers?  Why just accept that the first quarter of the year will be slow? Rather, be creative now and develop some marketing programs that will boost sales during the winter doldrums.

In the current stagnant economy, most large retailers and major chain stores are using a marketing strategy centered around deep discounting and big sales events to attract consumers. They wield large advertising budgets to promote their discounts. As a result, many shoppers are now conditioned to only buy when something is on sale. No one wants to pay full retail price. They’ll wait until it goes on sale.

It is difficult for a small retailer to compete with the marketing might of such large advertising campaigns. So don’t fight them. Join them by using similar techniques but with your own personal twist. Consider some of the following ideas to attract customers during the traditionally slow period.

Cash-for-Clunkers

The Cash-for-Clunkers marketing campaign worked wonders for the auto industry. By touting a large trade-in discount for older, worn out cars, the auto companies sold billions of dollars worth new ones. You can apply the same concept to bird feeders. Have your own Cash-for-Clunkers trade-in sale. Any customer trading in an old feeder, gets a discount of 25%. Or maybe a free 5-pound bag of seed. This offer appeals to any customer who has thought about buying a new feeder but hasn’t. Now they have a good reason to buy one. Everyone loves a sale.

Apply the same concept to birdhouses. Maybe call it a “Flip your House” or “Foreclosure Sale” to tie your promotion to the current news headlines. “Mortgage Rates are low – Time to buy a new house.”

Calendar Tie-Ins

Look at the calendar to find holidays, some national, some not so well known, that you can creatively tie to a sale or promotion. A clever title makes your sale more memorable than just another run-of-the-mill sale. Customers may even mention it to other customers. You can find possible tie-ins for every month.

January

It snows in January so department stores have “white sales”. Offer a discount on any white product, such as pure suet, or safflower seed. See if you can create a promotion based on these relatively unknown holidays in January: 5th, National Bird Day. 6th, Sherlock Holmes Birthday. 10th, Save the Eagle Day. 15th, National Hat Day. 17th, Popcorn Day. 20th, Penguin Awareness Day. 21st, Squirrel Appreciation Day

February

Feb 7th, Super Bowl Sunday. Time for a super sale. 10th, Boy Scout Day – 100th Anniversary. 14th, Valentine’s Day. Offer 14% discount. A valentine treat for your birds. Feb 15th, President’s Day. Auto dealers always have major sale promotions associated with Presidents Day, even though neither Washington or Lincoln ever drove. 16th, Fat Tuesday. 17th, Ash Wednesday. “Help the hungry. Buy a feeder.”

March

14th, Daylight Savings Time begins. Time to see more birds. 15th, Ides of March: Free suet cake on the 16th for surviving the Ides of March (the 15th). 16th, March Madness begins, first round of NCAA tournament. 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. 17% discount for anyone wearing green. 20th, Spring Begins. “End of Winter Sale.” Sale on all winter merchandise, e.g., heated baths. “Get ready for Spring”. Spring cleaning items: Brushes, cleaners, bath cleaners. Become a landlord this spring.

April1st, April Fools Day.

We are making a fool of ourselves sale. Make a fool of yourself and save an additional 10%. 3rd, NCAA Final Four. 4th, Easter. 15th, Tax Day. Need a tax deduction? Buy a new house. 22nd ,Earth Day. Going green sale.