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Gift Basket Open House

Opening a Different Form of Advertising

You have tried every known form of advertising; some have worked and some have not. Those that worked one time did not work a second time. John Wanamaker, of the Wanamaker Department Stores in Philadelphia may have been right when he said, "I know half of my advertising doesn't work. I just don't know which half it is".

For most gift basket businesses, yellow page advertising and newspaper advertising have been the most popular. A few of the more sizable businesses can afford radio or television advertising. Businesses can now take advantage of selling anywhere in the world by way of the Internet. Some of the very progressive businesses have done very well by utilizing the names and addresses of customers, and creating unique forms of direct mail advertising.

And with some of the business owners we have spoken with, becoming active members of their local chambers or a networking group, has shown to pay great dividends. Attending functions like these and passing out the business card or one that has a small gift from their business can often introduce you and your business to companies that may not catch your traditional advertising.

With the benefit of some creative gift basket retailers, we are going to share with you an idea borrowed from another area of retail. For businesses that are primarily gift or floral shops, having an open house is often a tradition. Those who are owners and managers of Hallmark Gold Crown stores have the opportunity of taking advantage of a nationally advertised open house event.

But what about the businesses that do not fit into these molds? A business that primarily sells gift baskets to consumers and walk in trade will probably want to be located in a high traffic or easily accessible location. This can be achieved in a shopping center, mall, downtown area, or even a stand alone store.

And surely, the business needs to have an attractive facility if they are to capitalize on the idea of getting a customer "in the mood" to buy, and buying more once they are in the shop.

For those gift basket businesses that receive a sizable portion of their business from commercial accounts, the traditional concerns of a retailer for facilities, hours and related areas are less applicable. Perhaps having the correct form of advertising is even more critical to these businesses.

We spoke with several gift basket shop owners to gain from their insight and experience. Our visits with each of them will probably surprise you as not all of them gave resounding endorsements to the idea of having an open house. We will share their successes, failures, and with one commercial account oriented retailer, some great progress in the growth of their business by way of an open house.

We begin with Lee Lang, owner of A Basket Affair in Broomfield, Colorado. The shop is located in an old post office building. Her business is a 50-50 split between consumer and commercial accounts. In the building, Lang dedicates 45% of the 1000 square feet to a sales floor.

For the past three years, she has held a holiday open house in November. She has been successful with her open house as she cites one customer who spent $10,000 during one of her events.

In her business, like many others there are disproportionate number of customers placing their orders very close to the holiday season. As a way of working this, she did try a September open house in which she offered early bird discounts to her customers. Because of a lack of time, however, she has not continued the event.

To promote the event, Lang utilizes newspaper ads, mailers to her list of 350 names, and relies heavily on her networking through Chamber of Commerce groups and networking clubs that she has a membership in.

Our second retailer is Ann Powell, owner of Taylor Made for You of Richmond, Virginia. Powell is not an advocate of open houses citing her last experience from a grand opening as she moved her business two years ago. Her business is located in an industrial park about a half mile off the beaten path. For the grand opening she did all the things you would expect would work; the chamber of commerce and the official ribbon cutting. She used newspaper and radio to invite people to come to her new facility which has a 1,500 square foot sales floor and a 4,500 square foot warehouse.

Powell has a mailing list most retailers would be envious of as it numbers in excess of 6,000. In discussing her feelings with open houses, she comments as to why she thinks the last one did not provide her with the desired results. She utilized a marketing person who selected some 2,500 of the names to be on the invitation list; a move she now has second thoughts about. And while there were positive results from having the event, the expense and effort were not justified.

Our third retailer is the business that has had the experience everyone probably hopes for. Carrie Escobar of Koala-T Gifts of Kissimmee, Florida has ` to the point where 95% of her business is commercial. Kissimmee, only a few miles from Disney, and hundreds of thousands of hotel meeting rooms, as well as within 90 minutes of Tampa and the gulf coast, provides her with an enviable market area.

Escobar sites the consumer who called, taking 45 minutes to discuss such intricate details as the color of the shredded cellophane, and finally spending $25. As a contract, she mentions a buyer from Microsoft who in planning an event to be held in Orlando spent $5,000 in the same amount of time.

Her business, an 800 square foot building, is in a unique location as it is on the same 2 1/2 acre plot as her home.

With the success of her first commercial open house, as we spoke in May, Escobar was already working on her 2001 event. She cited one of the major Orlando area entertainment groups had placed their Christmas order.

Escobar is looking at multiple open houses for several reasons. She has identified numerous groups of customers: law firms, accounting firms, realtors, contractors, hospitals, doctors, the hotel sales and marketing firms, and the entertainment companies. "Many of the groups would welcome the opportunity to network while attending an open house, while there are a few who do not feel comfortable shopping in the presence of their competition", she explains. Escobar is working to provide a comfortable experience for all her existing and potential clients, especially in light of a number of the clients being capable of writing an order that is a "five digit number".

Because of the growth of her business, Escobar is working hard to capitalize on the possibilities of the 2001 holiday season.

As you can see from our three examples, an open house can be a great addition to your business, but is not a cure all to any gift basket business. And if you want to find out, you are going to have to try one for yourself.

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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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