Retailers Ramp Up New Strategies as Holidays Approach

Retailers Ramp Up New Strategies as Holidays Approach

Without doubt, the 2020 holiday shopping season will be drastically different from years past.  Local retailers are facing the challenge head on, offering special services and taking advantage of technology to connect with consumers.  The goal: deliver the convenience of online shopping while preserving the personal touch that inspires loyalty to small businesses. Check out these strategies from a sampling of Chamber retail stores for a taste of the innovations that will transform holiday shopping this year.

For Shellé Jewelers, an enhanced online presence is making the shopping process more streamlined.  In recent months, the family-owned business has increased the frequency of its social media posts and made hundreds of items available for purchase through their website — but most customers still come into the store to make their final selection. “Only about five percent of our sales go through the internet,” notes Brian Millman, “but there’s a huge amount of pre-shopping taking place on the website.  Most people who come in are not wasting time. They’ve got the idea of what they want and just need to see it and hold it to be sure.”

Emily Sobel, owner of needlepoint shop Emily’s Stitchery, saw an opportunity for growth as homebound people took up new hobbies during the pandemic.  She ramped up her Facebook and Instagram presence with daily posts of new products, with links to a sales portal on her website.  Similarly, Lynette Swanson of Three Bags Full Knitting Studio uses Instagram and an extensive customer email list to promote pre-assembled project kits. “In particular we are focusing on projects that are great gift ideas, either for the customer to make as a gift or to give to a knitter or crocheter,” Lynette explains.  For both businesses, curbside pickups, private appointments, and shipping or delivery options all support shopping in the safest environment possible.

Alternative selling platforms are also adding convenience and interest to online shopping.  Bonnie Brinkman recently began using Comment Sold to promote new products for her clothing store Guys & Co.  The platform operates with Facebook and Instagram to enable shoppers to see product photos or videos and place an order with just a few clicks.  “It’s great for reaching women who are shopping for gifts for their sons and husbands,” says Bonnie.  The platform works best with items that are easy to size, like t-shirts, sweats and novelty socks.  It fits well with the most popular product lines for the holidays, which will focus on comfortable, casual items. Selections can be shipped or picked up curbside at the store, and Bonnie offers private in-store or virtual appointments for more customized shopping.

For retailers that specialize in corporate gifts, the COVID economy has closed some doors but opened others.  Jack Eisenberg, Gail’s Brownies notes that clients are placing a new emphasis on employee appreciation as well as the traditional gifts to clients.  “We have a wide range of price points available, so our customers can find something to fit their circumstances,” reflects Jack.  The company has added cookies to its selection of gourmet brownies, and is expanding its email and social media marketing along with “old-fashioned, pick up the phone” contacts.  “The key is, there’s never been a more important time than now to do something for people.”  Robin Fields, Toffee Break Desserts, hopes to offset the lack of catered events this year by increasing sales at retail locations like Sunset Foods and is looking for new outlets both locally and nationally.  Her business’s website features a variety of options for easy ordering of customizable gift packages.

Larger shopping centers and retailers are also emphasizing extra service along with safe family-friendly events to promote customer connection.  At Northbrook Court, many interior stores offer curbside pickup of online orders.  Shoppers can also limit their wait times outside stores by using a new Spot Holder mobile program; participating shops will display a QR code that customers can scan to receive a text message when it is their turn to enter the store.  One of the most ambitious draws to the mall will be the brand new Let It Shine drive-thru light show running from November through January — a surefire way to bring the holiday spirit to even this highly unusual year.