Aug 20, 2012
Cupid’s Little Helper
Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

Become a one-stop shop for all their Valentine needs

According to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, Americans spent more than $13 billion on Valentine’s Day items last year, with the average consumer spending $116 and more than 180 million cards sent. Needless to say, this is an important holiday not only for those looking to express a loving feeling, but also for stores that can help fill that need.

Sweet Staples

When it comes to general party goods, the strongest performers still include the iconic heart in the traditional holiday colors.

“The best part of our ‘Happy Heart Day’ pattern is that the use of hearts can span consumer needs,” said Allison Basham of Hallmark Party. “The trend forwardness of our design is the pattern of the hearts, the play on the small and large hearts and the use of small hearts as a border give a playful look to our pattern.”

Basham added that retailers must have the partyware to support the party and the decorations to bring it to life. Treat sacks also play a role in the holiday, as the sharing of treats is a tradition.

Kelly Karrmann of Creative Converting agreed, saying that Valentine’s Day designs and icons will center around sweets and treats like cupcakes, doughnuts and fun candies and that must-have items for retailers include Valentine’s-themed bakeware and “bake and take” items.

“For Valentine’s Day 2013, we’ll see an even bigger continuation of the baking trend that is currently taking place,” Karrmann said. “Items like cupcake wrappers, dessert toppers and party picks as well as ‘bake and take’ bags and boxes will be intermixed with Valentine’s themed disposable tableware and decor.”

In addition to traditional Valentine’s Day reds and pinks, we’ll also see bright and bold accent colors like yellow, orange and blue included in designs and patterns. Red and black together remain a popular, bold color theme that’s well suited for giving to both male and female Valentines. Another popular color theme for Valentine’s gift-giving is red with the rich addition of burnished gold accents.

Love Notes

As mentioned above, more than 180 million Valentine’s Day cards were sent last year, and it’s important for retailers to offer different types of Valentine’s cards for all of their different customers: cards for members of couples to give to each other, cards for parents/grandparents to give to their children/grandchildren, etc.

“Each of these two distinct markets generates significant card sales,” said George White of Up With Paper. “Of course romance cards vary tremendously from the sweet pastels for older couples to the titillating and raunchy for younger dating couples, and retailers choices of the ‘right’ lines to carry are dependent on their customer base.”

As always, it is important for specialty retailers to differentiate themselves from the big box card offerings by providing their customers with unique lines featuring handmade and other touches. Unique and handmade touches are especially important for romance cards to show the loved one that you took the time to shop for the perfect card.

“It is important to carry cards for each type of shopper and to merchandise them separately,” White added. “Put all the romance cards together, and all the family cards together, with clear differentiation between the two so consumers can most easily find what they are looking for.”

Inflation Infatuation

Once your customer has the basic party goods and cards, you ideally want to add balloons to every purchase for a complete package deal.

Kathy Flynn of Pioneer Balloon Co. advises retailers to offer a range of designs from romantic and classic to fun and playful. Different messages will also appeal to different customers, depending on whether the recipient is a spouse, family member or friend. Balloons that simply say “Happy Valentine’s Day” are great for decorating parties or gift-giving to friends, while “I Love You” messages can sell on Valentine’s Day and beyond.

“Watch for more sparkle in Valentine’s 2013 products,” Flynn said. “Sparkly Qualatex Holographic balloons were first introduced for Valentine’s 2012, and for 2013 we’ll be introducing a new Holographic red and black design in both 18-inch size and jumbo 36-inch size.”

Flynn added that demographics are shifting across the U.S. to include a higher percentage of Hispanic buyers. To better cater to these customers, Qualatex has expanded the Valentine’s 2013 Spanish selection to more than 10 designs with graphics and messages. These designs are available in 9-inch air-fill Microfoils and 18-inch Microfoils.

Show Some Love

Studies have shown you will sell what you show, and customers often don’t know what they want until they see it. For early shoppers, Flynn suggests offering a menu of choices and a single balloon bouquet or one jumbo 36-inch balloon with signage offered at a discount for orders that are placed early that can be displayed at the beginning of January.

“For those last-minute shoppers, simply offer select combinations with less customization for quicker decision-making,” Flynn added. “Regardless, be sure to display a finished bouquet.”

When it comes to merchandising other party products, be sure to include items specific to the correct recipient in the display in order to maximize impulse purchases.

“For romantic customers, make sure to merchandise items with traditional sweetheart gifts like candy, cards, teddy bears and balloons,” Karrmann said. “For families, merchandise with age appropriate party favors such as heart-themed trinkets and small giftable items.”

For functions with larger guest lists, retailers should merchandise Valentine-themed tableware and decor with solid color items in larger quantities to provide opportunities to mix and match. Since most Valentine’s Day shoppers are usually purchasing close to Feb. 14, Karrmann suggests displaying product in mid-January.

Basham recommends maximizing the selling timeframe by putting Valentine’s Day up as you take your winter holiday product down, and to consider cross merchandising product with other formats that may correspond well – such as putting a decor kit with a party ensemble.

As for White, he suggests retailers start putting product out the day after New Year’s Day, and for a last boost of sales, have cards for men to give to their significant other merchandised right by the door and/or cash register starting Feb. 7 for those last minute purchases.

Regardless of whether your customer is a mom coming in for plates and balloons or a boyfriend who’s frantic to find a nice card, make sure that you offer them just what they need – when they need it – and even some things that they don’t.

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