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'Tis The Season for Holiday Sales

Posted: 10/19/2016

It’s that time of year again! Early fall is just the right time to start getting ready for the holiday season. Gift and decorative product sales during November and December are at an all-year high for most businesses that offer sublimated items. Demand from both consumer/retail and corporate markets will start increasing soon. The question is, are you ready to meet that demand and get a piece of the action for your business? This article will help you get there.

The Holidays

When the term “holiday season” comes to mind, most people think of Christmas or Hannukah as singular events that define what really is an entire season. For sublimated products, the season really begins in October with Halloween. There are lots of items you could offer for sale with Halloween-themed designs. Decorating more than gift giving is the key for this holiday, as more people are looking to give their homes a halloween-inspired look. Door and knob signs, garden flags, coasters, cutting boards, picture frames, mugs, plates, bookmarks … there are even pumpkin and ghost ornament shapes! Creativity and marketing are key to selling sublimated items for Halloween.

Right after Halloween, you have Thanksgiving in the US. Again, more homey and decorative items work best for this holiday. Think items for the kitchen or family meals: cutting boards; coasters and their holders; tile trivets; plates; drinkware; linens, such as aprons, potholders, towels and napkins; serving trays, etc.  

Once Thanksgiving is done, the focus shifts to the bevy of winter holidays in December and January. This is a time for religious observances of Christmas and Hanukkah, as well as cultural holidays, such as Kwanzaa and Winter Solstice.

It’s important to be mindful of who you’re selling to, so as to not offend current or potential customers and provide the most relevant options for them. For example, many households in the U.S. have Christmas celebrations that make extensive use of themed decorations. Top sellers for sublimation include stockings, ornaments, pillows, coasters, serving trays, placemats, etc. Images range from those of Santa Claus and winter scenes/symbols to religious icons and themes.

Other cultures may have a totally different take on the holiday season, creating opportunities for you, provided you understand their needs and are able to generate appropriate products to satisfy those needs in a respectful and tasteful manner.

Christmas in Mexico is celebrated from December 12 through January 6, with several different types of observances during that time. You may find that many of your customers celebrate Posada, Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, and even Candlemas (which takes place on February 2), as part of their holiday traditions. These days all represent both religious and cultural significance, and images of the Virgin of Guadalupe or poinsettia may be more appropriate than those of Santa Claus for this market.

The important take-away here is to really understand your market and the holidays that are important to your targeted customers. Then develop strategies for creating products they will love and want to buy. Doing so can also open up new avenues for revenue you may not have considered before.

Selling to Retail Markets

Regardless of the culture or the form of celebration, most people view the holiday season as being all about giving, which opens up the door to personalized gift items. Personalization has long been associated with the concept of upscale gifts with special meaning. It also ties in closely with preserving memories and delivering heartfelt emotions to others. Of course, sublimation is an excellent way to enable your customers to give such meaningful items.

Sublimation’s ability to deliver exceptional full-color graphics and high-definition photography onto hundreds of different types of gift items makes it both desirable and profitable. Some of the top-selling gift items include personalized mobile device covers, photo panels, ornaments and mugs.

In most cases, all that is required is a photograph that delivers a visual message, which can be enhanced with graphics and/or text. But, remember that the main focus is to capture and preserve a special memory. This will create a higher perceived value for the item because of the emotional connection it creates for the person who will receive it. In turn, this leads to higher margins for you.

One of the hottest markets for holiday gifts are related to pets. People LOVE their pets so much that they spend a lot of money each year on items that celebrate their little companions. In fact, 77 percent of pet owners say they give holiday and birthday gifts to their pets!

Considering that there are 78 million dogs and 83 million cats in the U.S. alone, offering pet-themed products or items featuring pictures of pets easily become another profitable avenue for the holiday season. Top-selling personalized pet gifts include food bowls, treat jars, collars, pillows, as well as ornaments and mobile device covers featuring pet photos (for the owner, not the pet, of course!).

Even though it’s only October, you should be thinking about your retail holiday sales strategy. Some tips:

  • Research: Visit a sublimation dealer website or attend a trade show to check out what substrates are new and hot. Also research your target customers to see what the most current trends in personalization and gifts are, and compare that with your current capabilities. The potential for increased revenue, promotional pricing and year-end tax-friendly purchase incentives may lead you to some new sublimation equipment.

  • Market: Once you have an idea of what products and services make the most sense, focus on what channels work best for selling and getting the word out. How do you plan to sell your products? On-site? Online? Wholesale to a retailer? Through a fundraising program? Think this through before making any decisions to ensure you choose what’s right for your market. Then publicize where to find your products through flyers, direct mail, and emails- just a few of the basic tools at your disposal. Social media outreach through Facebook groups and Twitter connections are also very handy.

  • Hit the Road: You can get more sophisticated by taking your business mobile to sell merchandise at craft shows and holiday festivals. Some shops even rent kiosks in malls just during the holiday months. The key to success here is finding the method that works for your business and taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Selling to Corporate Markets

Consumers aren’t the only ones who are giving gifts during the holiday season. Many companies and small businesses do, as well. Such items tend to be more of a promotional product that emphasizes the company brand, rather than a holiday theme. There are also usually two general types of gifts companies give: client and staff gifts.

Some companies give employees gifts because they feel it’s the best way to recognize their work and say “thanks for a job well done.” They also give gifts to clients this time of the year, to both thank them for their business and to further promote their brand. This is a great way to foster relationships that can result in future sales, which is why many companies engage in the practice. Since this type of giving has the greatest potential to generate revenue, it is also the angle that offers you the most opportunities for making sales.

Decisions about corporate gifting are already being made, so now is the time to develop your holiday strategies. As a starting point, put together a web page or flyer that showcases key promotional products that can be used as gifts for staff and/or customers.  Then start a campaign to get that information in front of your clients.  That means phone calls and personal visits.

Some companies rent a meeting space and set up a holiday gift showing. This is an event where they set up tables full of products, invest in some light refreshments and then invite every local business to “drop in” at their convenience to view exciting new gift ideas that thank customers while generating future sales.  A typical showcase will run all day for three consecutive days in order to provide plenty of scheduling flexibility for the targeted audience.

Regardless of how you work to get the word out, the key with corporate accounts is face-to-face interaction. There are too many distractions to entrust this all-important task to static messages. Good old-fashioned cold calling, sales calls and networking are the best strategies for selling to companies. And make sure you have a good sample kit with you to showcase exactly what you can offer them. Very often, great samples will make the sale for you. In fact, you can start with our Christmas stock images!

Learn More

Sawgrass offers a lot of resources for helping you tackle the holiday season.