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Last Minute Christmas Sales Ideas

15 Last Minute Ideas for Making Music at the Register

You look at the calendar and wonder if you have done everything possible to have a Christmas season as profitable as last year's season. And yet, if you do think of anything else to do, you realize it will have to be something you can create with a minimal amount of time and effort. Visiting with dealers from around the country, here is our list if fifteen last minute ideas to help your music store make more music at the register this season.

Each of the ideas has been time tested and proven by these and other retailers. It is up to you to select those, which you and your employees can implement and enjoy, as well being ideas which your customers will respond to and enjoy. The important thing is to ask yourself if you have done everything possible, and if not, act now to make this the best Christmas selling season your store has ever had.

#1. Call a local mall to see if they have any kiosks which are not rented. As this is a last minute event, you may be able to negotiate a great price on space which otherwise will go empty. As the kiosk has limited space, you should show only products which are impulse purchases and have good margins. (See idea number two for some great suggestions of items you could have in your kiosk).

You should also create a newsletter or flyer telling the customers about the full selection of merchandise in your store, and provide a coupon on the flyer which will further entice customers to make the trip to your store.

#2. "We will be creating our own stocking stuffers", says Chuck Blesch of Sigler Music in Fort Smith, Arkansas. "For guitars, we will have a complete stocking stuffer package which will have strings, picks, polish, a strap, stand, and capo. There will also be a guitar stocking stuffer which will not have as many items so as to appeal to someone on a budget."

Sigler's will also have a keyboard package which will contain a keyboard stand, seat, a/c adapter, headphones, and a sustain pedal. Their microphone package will contain a microphone, cord stand, and a windscreen. And of the stocking stuffer packages can be customized to the needs and price level of any customer.

#3. Entertain the customer. Eric Burgess, manager of Alpha Music in Virginia Beach, Va. noted that the week of Thanksgiving is their cutoff date to be able to get a last minute newsletter into the hands of their customers. Their mailing list is of the size most retailers would dream of having, with some 25,000 people receiving the newsletter each quarter.

Burgess describes Alpha Rock as a "rock shop", with all the necessities for a group. One of the promotions they have utilized in the past has been a "famous musician" day. "We would try a Jimi Hendrix event, having a small backup band, and inviting customers to do their best Hendrix imitation. For a prize, we would probably give away a Stratocaster".

#4. Look for last minute specials in advertising from radio and television stations. You may find a station having lost a sponsor for an event, willing to provide you with a special price for the advertising time. This possible opportunity should also alert you to checking with vendors to find the amount of co-op advertising money they have available for you.

#5. Gain some free advertising with local music groups and a nearby mall. Offer to provide the area mall with free Christmas music each evening, with the mall providing the advertising. You can then contact groups and choirs which do business with you, and offer them the opportunity to be seen by the many customers who shop in the mall. As a thank you gift to each of the performing groups, you can give them a gift certificate to shop in your store.

#6. Bake cookies for your customers. You can surprise your customers, and even make a few extra dollars by adding an Otis Spunkmeyer cookie selection for the holiday season. For a small deposit, Spunkmeyer will provide you with many varieties of cookies and the necessary accessories such as the oven, cookie bags, display rack, and tools. Spunkmeyer cookies can be reached at 1-888-ask-otis.

#7. Support local charities. Contacting the organization to ask what their need are, allows you to easily tie into their efforts, and receive promotion of your business through their newsletter, as well as through the free advertising they receive through the media. For example, you can offer a discount on purchases over $50, when a customer brings in canned goods for the local food bank, invite the Salvation Army to have a kettle in front of your store, or provide a small gift certificate for each person who donates to the local blood bank.

A similar promotion would also work well with the toy drive. Phone calls to each of the groups is all it takes to get started. People who are supporters of these charities are well know to shop where their organization benefits. Terri Sunderland of Lentine's Music in Akron, Ohio suggests contacting all of the local radio stations and invite them to use your store as a drop off point for donations.

#8. Help a church group raise funds. Many stores report Sunday afternoon shoppers are more often "just looking" than buying. To create a reason for Sunday afternoon shopping, one owner contacted each of the local churches offering to help them raise money. Parishioners were invited to bring a church bulletin in as they do their shopping.

When the make a purchase, the cashier would take the bulletin and write on the cover, the total amount of the purchase. The store would then total the purchases made through each church, and donate 10% of the Sunday afternoon purchases to the church. This store owner said you could easily tell which churches promoted their participation, as there were sizeable donations made to them.

#9. Keep the customer coming back. Bill Findeison, owner of Bringe Music in St. Petersburg, Fl. know the value of looking for the continual sale. "We have many people making a purchase of a keyboard, horn, or string instrument, as a Christmas gift. We offer a package deal, which provides the recipient of the gift with lessons and waives our usual $10 school of music registration fee. This way we are able to get the end user into our business after Christmas, and provide us with the opportunity of introducing the various accessories."

#10. Have a "Dutch auction". Any store than has been open for more than six months is sure to have merchandise which has lost its' appeal. A dutch auction is an easy method of clearing the merchandise during the Christmas season. Begin by making the merchandise appear as desirable as possible. This would include repairing any torn packaging, and putting a new price tag on the item. Put all of the Dutch auction items in one location, with a sign explaining how the sale will work. The first Monday of the sale, all items are 20% off their tagged price, and remain at that price for one week.

The following Monday, the sign changes to announce all items are 30% off the tagged price for another week. And with each of the Mondays until Christmas, the price changes to reflect an additional 10% off. Retailers who have followed this method report customers return to the store more frequently checking to see if the items they are interested in are still on the table.

#11. Findeison suggested having a guitar day. While the promotional day has been held in April each year for Bringe Music, the technique would work for a Christmas promotion. By way of a newspaper ad, and the flyers handed to their 400 plus music students each week, Bringe sets aside one Saturday offering free restringing of any guitar.

To take advantage of this offer, all the customer has to do is bring their guitar in. To keep the customers in the store, there is a stipulation that all customers must wait for their guitar. While the customer is waiting for their guitar, they will be exposed to several guitar professionals playing acoustics and electrics, refreshments, and additional sales staff demonstrating other products for sale. Findeison makes this event work by having vendors supply the strings for free to Bringe Music. Findeison provides the four staff members necessary to restring the 200 or so guitars which are brought in.

#12. Sunderland also likes the idea of creating a calendar sale. Your flyer need only feature a calendar of the month of December with a different special for each day. If your store carries a wide variety of products, you could create several of these calendar sales so as to expose more products from each category. If you utilize a web site, posting the calendar on your site provides you with additional exposure to customers.

#13. The use of a web site and electronic newsletter is another idea which Sunderland likes. If you are keeping detailed information on your customers with a data management program such as ACT 2000, you can actually create quick e- mail newsletters that will speak only to the guitar customers, horn customers, keyboard or other instruments.

lf each of these groups is small, you can probably manage the creation and sending of the electronic ad with software in your computer. However, if your database is large, you may want to consider outsourcing the newsletter to a service bureau such as OakNet Publishing (www.oaknetpub.com). Firms such as this provide services at a nominal fee.

#14. Kenny Cordray of Evan's Music City in Houston, TX. offered a Christmas promotion they have already utilized. Again working with the Internet, Evan's joined with an Internet company at www.traxinspace.com to create a song- writing contest. To enter the contest, from anywhere in the world, you submit the 3-minute or less material via the Internet in the MP3 format. While at the Traxinspace website, consumers could see photos of the various prizes. Consumers in the Houston area could visit the store to see the actual prizes.

Because their mailing, and e-mail lists have some 40,000+ names on them, Evan's can easily promote the event by way of a newsletter and the Internet newsletter like we mentioned in the last idea. The contest had no cost to Evan's as the folks at Traxinspace were instrumental in obtaining the prizes and other event necessities.

#15. About the middle of December, Sunderland will begin looking for packages of radio advertising for the after Christmas sales. She also reports they have had success with utilizing classified ads for after Christmas clearance sales.

Findeison agrees with Sunderland on this point as his store has had a level of success utilizing the classified section of the newspaper to move out excessive or unique inventory from the group of trade in inventory they have on hand.

Perhaps, the need or opportunity of this last minute effort has left you gasping for air, and looking for time to get the other tasks of the holiday season completed. Like many retailers, you will probably have to do your personal shopping at the last minute. In an effort to prevent this happening for the 2000 holiday season, take a file folder, mark it Christmas 2000, and begin to fill it by first tearing out this article and placing it in the front of your filing cabinet.

As you attend trade shows, make a point to ask other retailers what they have done in years past to promote their business. If you find another retailer with an electronic newsletter, ask them to place you on the list of recipients.

Most importantly, of the fifteen ideas we have shared here, try several of them and then document what the results are. Make note of how you think you could improve for next year. Invite your employees to brainstorm with you to create some events. It is Christmas time, and while consumers are looking for items which help to fulfill their need for music in their life, remember that music is a form of entertainment.

Your store needs to not just be the place that sells music, but to be itself a part of the entertainment the consumer wants to enjoy.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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