May 21, 2012
Happy Merry Holidays
Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

A mixture of tradition and trends will keep retail bells ringing

Do you say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”? Display religious icons or Santa?

What’s appropriate has evolved over the past seasons, and with the ever-growing melting pot of cultural and religious beliefs, it can be confusing for retailers to predict exactly what will sell when it comes to winter holidays.

Each store and location will have their own selection depending on their customer base, but a mixture of tradition and trendy is one sure way to keep those register bells jingling throughout the winter season.

At Party Time in Horseheads, N.Y, they have partnered up with a local photographer and set up their entranceway with Santa to offer pictures taken right there at the store, but they make sure to address both sides of the holiday spectrum.

“As an independent store I carry an 8- to 12-foot section of religious Christmas with scene setters, costumes, decorations, favors and more, which really sets us apart from the chain stores out there,” said Owner R.C. Ike. “This is such a debate and both sides feel strongly on the issue, so we have both and feel they sell equally as well.”

They also try to have a balance of “Merry Christmas” and ” Happy Holidays” merchandise at The Lippman Co. in Portland, Ore., and feel they do better with the latter.

“‘Happy Holidays’ seems to cover a wider range of our clientele,” said Josh Good, office manager. “The big item last year was anything snowflake – cutouts, hanging glitter snowflakes, anything decorative with a snowflake on it flew out the door. Artificial snow was also a large seller.”

He added that on the costume end of it, they can never have enough Santa suits to meet demand, and Santa hats, glasses and beards will sell out as well.

“As we are also a balloon shop, I feel I should mention the interlocking snowflake and poinsettia Mylar balloons that we sell so much of,” Good added. “On the Christmas end, I wouldn’t be caught without a large stock of the traditional ‘Christmas Crackers’- tubes wrapped in colorful paper that contain a prize. We did very well with them.”

Noteworthy Items
Many manufacturers also offer a holiday mix, and in the personalized holiday card market, Carlson Craft continues to offer a variety of greetings on the front of the card – Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Greetings of the Season, Holiday Greetings and Merry Christmas, to name a few.

“However, we have seen a resurgence of ‘Merry Christmas’ and it’s becoming more popular again,” said Brenda Boyer of Carlson Craft. “Some of our best selling cards have ‘Merry Christmas’ on the front, even in our albums that offer more business to business cards.”

Boyer said they continue to see traditional themes and designs such as trees, wreaths, snowflakes, etc. selling on personalized cards, but that they’ve put a twist on some by offering them on a fun paper color or by giving the design a contemporary look.

“Our 2012 holiday line includes more cards made with shimmer papers, colored papers and foil embossed designs,” Boyer said. “And not just in the traditional “Christmas” colors, but also different colors like blue, copper, cocoa and silver. We offer more cards with silver accents, but this year, we are including more gold foil than we have in the past few years. We think gold will be making a comeback.”

George White of Up With Paper said he does expect to see more “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” messages in the market overall, including party and greeting cards, and that they have a unique way to address that with many of their card designs.

“We include multiple message tags so that consumers can choose the message they want, including ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Season’s Greetings,’ as well as a blank tag for personalization,” White said. “And for the first time this year, we are also including multiple language tags (Spanish, French and German) on a couple of our designs as a test to see how that is received.”

Although Christmas is their most traditional holiday, White said there are always fresh takes and that owls are trending up significantly and will be seen a lot at Christmas. In addition, the use of dogs, cats and snowmen will again be everywhere.

“We’re also expanding our unique combination of pop-ups with sound chips in more designs, as well as in a small release of the first-ever Sight ‘n Sound cards in Europe,” White added. “We also have a new line of gift tags featuring an innovative spring pop-up action that will bring any gift to life.”

Holiday Mixers
At PlumParty.com, President and Creative Director Risa Meyer expects to see a lot of vintage-inspired holiday themes. With the Mad Men craze as strong as ever, and with fashion introducing so many styles that reflect the styles of the ’40s and ’50s, this retro craze will influence holiday decor.

“In addition to the traditional colors, we are introducing personalized holiday napkins, cups, coasters and lollipops in pastels, such as light pink and baby blue,” Meyer said. “We will also use a metallic script font script reminiscent of ‘I love Lucy’ to personalize the party supplies.”

Ike said he has always seen the poinsettia and holly patterns do well, and for a more juvenile theme Santa and snowman do great. There has also been a large increase in placemats, rectangle doilies and coloring placemats, not just at Christmas but many other seasons.

“The ‘mini’ collection from King Zak has been a great hit as well,” Ike added. “And it works so well with weddings, showers, ladies gatherings, wine tastings, and so much more than just holidays.”

Applicability and cross-merchandising is key, as no retailer wants to be left with large amounts of seasonal overstock. Mixing in pastel and bold solids with gold and silver holiday accents is an easy way to combine seasonal with everyday, and White recommends retailers merchandise by look rather than by manufacturer or price point, such as displaying a grouping of owl products or snowmen, etc.

“Christmas sell-through in 2011 was significantly better than 2010, so retailers came into the winter show season in a very positive frame of mind,” White added. “I expect to see more retailers offering a greater variety and buying a bit deeper in 2012, as there is renewed confidence in the market – confidence that is justified based on the sales we are seeing in the first quarter of this year.”

In other words, whether the sentiment is “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” it looks to be a season of retail success.


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