By John Stanley Christmas is a fun period to be in retailing. I recently read a report by the Results Corporation from ten years ago which reminded me how critically important this period can be. I would like to share some thoughts based on that report. 1. Make sure the team are in the mood Forget the customers. If the team are in the mood, it will become infectious and customers will automatically get in the mood. I am a believer that Christmas should not start until after America has celebrated Thanksgiving. It concerns me that in the UK Christmas offers start too early and as a result the team and hence the customers get jaded. Before you open for Christmas, have a team meeting to ensure everyone gets in the mood and is ready to have fun with the customers. You need to rev the team up; otherwise the customers will not be delighted with what you have to offer. 2. Make sure you have the right stock Christmas used to be traditional, now it has become an interior fashion statement. Make sure your displays reflect the Christmas fashion trends taking place in your location. If you have Christmas stock left over from last year, does this need to be merchandised differently to get the message across? Do not forget to dress up existing products to ensure these are turned from commodity products to gift products in the customersï¿½ eyes. 3. Set a theme and keep to it Your business needs to stand out from other retail experiences the customer is exposed to. Just decorating the store will not delight your customers. You have to go all out with a theme that can be easily understood by your customers. How about: – A Country Christmas, – A Wild West Christmas, – White Christmas, – A ï¿½Pinkï¿½ Christmas, – A Tropical Christmas, – A Space Age Christmas But, make sure the whole team are behind the concept otherwise it will not work effectively. 4. Decorations need to be overboard Want to create an impact? If the answer is yes, then go overboard with decorations. That includes the team (and the boss) dressing up as part of the celebrations. Decorate your Christmas trees with panache and advise your customers to do the same. Keep the decorations to one theme and I would advise duplicating the same theme throughout the business. The only variation I would apply is if your theme was Christmas Trees of the World. 5. Gift baskets solve problems for everyone Gift baskets are ideal presents and an ideal way for you to manage stock. If you go into gift baskets, I would recommend investing in a shrink wrap machine, this means you can package a wide range of products in baskets and easily price them and keep them safe and secure. Make sure you use a wide variety of price points on your baskets. You will need to hit everyoneï¿½s gift buying budget to ensure you are perceived as providing value. 6. Special offers – do they have a role? In Australia we have started having sales in the lead up to Christmas, something that is completely beyond me. Leave the sales until after Christmas. I do see a role for a special in each category as a draw card, but a sale across the whole category is not, in my opinion, selling the Christmas spirit. 7. Promote in your Newsletter Link your Christmas promotion and newsletter. My favourite Christmas newsletter promotion is Zanthorrea Nursery in Western Australia. They promote their favourite things. It is simple and it is effective. 8. Always cross sell At Christmas traditional product category selling goes out of the window. You can mix and match in a crazy way. For example, get blackboards and do displays of presents for Mum, Dad, Grandad, Aunty, Uncle, the Dog, Boyfriend etc. etc. and group appropriate products together. 9. If you must have sale, have a sale If you must have a sale, have one. A closed door one. Select specific guests from your database, send them a fancy invitation and have a sale to them when the business is closed on one special evening. Make the sale the magical event, it works and finallyï¿½ï¿½ 10. Yell from the rooftops Get publicity by inviting newspapers, TV and radio. Convince local radio to do a live broadcast from your garden centre. Help them help you delight your customers.