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Selling Flags and Banners

Still Waving, Still Selling

As we begin a new decade in the garden industry, retailers will continue to look for the hot niche for their businesses. While forecasting is somewhat difficult, we can easily see growing product categories which have carried over from the 1990's. Water gardens, wildlife feeding, and upscale yard furniture are among the leaders. Another carry over from the last decade is decorative and festive flags for the home. Flags are not an item that has "run its' course", but is a category which can still be profitable and provide the retailer with a niche.

However, the margins on flags have changed substantially. Gone are the days when you could double the cost of a flag and add a couple of extra dollars to ensure a good profit. There are too many stores now carrying flags to allow that anymore.

The first key to selling flags is being able to display flags about your business. In the experience of this writer with his flag department, our 14 foot high ceilings and 100' by 90' sales floor allowed us to hang 100 different flags.

We found the key to more sales was in creating categories with our displays. One of our largest categories was college flags. Ordering the flags in quantities of two allowed us to have most any college on hand. And once one person found their favorite school on display in the store, we could count on the entire community of alumni and supporters looking to us to supply them with flags.

As for the traditional flag patterns, we found the customer would more frequently purchase a flag when they could see several options at one time. All of the flags with birds were hung next to each other, as were cats, dogs, sports, hummingbirds, flowers, and any other group we could create.

While you may not be as fortunate to have such large walls, it is important you become creative with your efforts. Remember, every other flag retailer has the same opportunity as you to purchase the rack which allows the consumer to page through 25 flags, with hooks below the display capable of holding some 200 flags.

We found several unique marketing ideas which brought customers to our store who had never shopped with us. Our first contact was to the local sports bars and restaurants. With each location, we offered to provide them with two college flags of their choice at no charge as long as each flag was always displayed inside their business, and the 4" by 5" card announcing our business as the vendor of the flags, was always attached in the lower corner.

Other neighborhood restaurants and stores who did not sell similar gift items, were other good locations to cross promote with. One restaurant on a busy street agreed to display two flags on the front of their building. Inside their menu was a notation that their restaurant flew the flags which could be purchased at our business. As we anticipated the flags would not be taken down each night, we provided the restaurant with a new flag every three weeks to keep our "distant location" display looking fresh.

The restaurant sold the flags which had been taken down at a special price to their customers. In return, they gave us gift certificates for their business which we could use as incentive pay bonuses for our employees.

Several merchants report that creating a "flag club" has worked to develop repeat customers. With most retailers, they give the customer a card which is punched with each successive flag purchase. Upon the purchase of a set number of flags, the customer receives one free. The twist we like better was one which involved add on sales. As the customer purchased a set number of flags, they were allowed to purchase a spray can of fabric protector which is what one manufacturer suggested each flag be sprayed with to extend its' useful life.

Another retailer used the same card, but after the set amount of purchases, allowed the customer to purchase at a discount price, a "flag bag" which would easily and very neatly hold some 25 flags. This retailer said they heard customers remarking about how they were working to fill up a flag bag, and how they would be needing a new one as they expanded their collection.

Again from the experience of this writer in his store, keeping a wide selection was a key to repeat sales. For St. Patrick's Day, we made a point to have two to four of every flag pattern possible. We found our customers appreciated the idea they couldn't drive around town and see their flag some six to ten times on other homes.

There is a quote of a famous person of, "The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated". The same is true for flags and banners. They are just like the Energizer bunny, "Still going!"

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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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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179