Sep 26, 2014
Going to the Source
Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

How to get – and keep – moms in your store for all their birthday needs

Birthdays. They happen every day, which means you have the opportunity to capitalize on this in your stores. And while getting older might not seem like a reason to celebrate for some adults, it’s almost always a reason to party for kids.

As such, parents are usually the ones in the stores doing all the planning and shopping. How can you make sure they choose you for all their party needs? Party & Paper Retailer went directly to the source – busy blogging moms throwing the parties – to see what shapes their buying decisions.

PPR: Why do you go to party stores instead of a big box or online?
Meredith Spidel
I love the physical experience of going to a smaller shop and picking though what they have. I’m sure most of it is unique and of higher quality, but my two main hang-ups right now are that it’s a pain to have to drag my young kids into such a shop (or anywhere, really), and I also think the cost is more. If there was a way I could pre-order the balloons so I don’t need to try to keep my two very active kids busy while waiting, that would be ideal.

A.K. Turner
I generally find that the party store is more convenient and cheaper. I can get everything in one place and I don’t get sucked into household shopping in the process. I want to be able to get everything I need a day or two before and in one place, and the idea of going to Walmart for anything scares me, so I just don’t do it.

Stephanie Jankowski
When I don’t shop online, I like to hit up the party stores because I want to see/hold what I’m buying before I drop loads of cash on decorations. The stuff isn’t cheap, and if space/dimensions or color coordination is a factor, I always want to see the stuff ahead of time.

Deva Dalporto
When you’re a busy mom, everything and anything is all about the convenience. If I can manage to gets my act together and order ahead of time, I’ll do it online. But online shopping can’t replace the experience of hitting the party store with the excited birthday boy or girl right before the big event. I always go with a solid color on the plates so I can reuse them, and then we jazz it up with a themed napkin and/or cup. This year we did plain red plates for my son’s birthday with a cool karate napkin and cup to match.

PPR: What items would you want them to include in an “all-inclusive” birthday party kit?
I like the options that aren’t absolutely geared toward boys or girls. Even if I have a “birthday girl,” chances are some of her guests will be boys and they might not be into the Ariel lip gloss. One year my daughter actually chose her cake based on it not being too girly because she wanted the boys at the party to like it, too. That said, I would love a birthday party kit with cake decorations, balloons, streamers, plates, cups, gift bags/party favors and maybe a pinata or party game. Done!

My son is a stereotypical boy and wants all the things blue and sports. My daughter requires pinks, purples, sparkles and balloons. She isn’t as picky with patterns or themes as long as the prerequisite colors and glitter are readily available. With kits, I would love quality, sectioned paper plates, cups, plastic ware, napkins, decorations that included a few balloons, a table centerpiece and a banner.

I think the packs are helpful for suggestions of what to have a party, but I never actually purchase them because I often find they don’t quite meet our needs. There a couple things I don’t want and I need to add on another item or two anyway, so sometimes when I price it all out, it’s just cheaper to individually buy the items I need.

PPR: What is the ideal price range for general party supplies? Are you willing to pay more for quality products?
Christine Burke
To be honest, I find it frustrating that themed specific items come in small quantities and are often at a higher premium. I’d pay more for a themed party item if I felt the value was higher (ex: 30 plates vs. 18 or 100 napkins vs. 50) or to have the “bulk” option discount. I would pay extra for balloons that would stay inflated longer, but I don’t necessarily need balloons floating in my house for three weeks after a party. It would be great to get eight hours out of a balloon purchase.

Cheap! Plus, some of the decorations I’ve purchased at the party store are cheap and they last, which is a bonus.

I try to buy the cheapest decorations I can find because they’re only used or on display for a few hours at a time. Kids’ interests and preferences change so quickly that there is no point in trying to save or recycle (sorry, Mother Earth). I won’t spend more than $10 to $15 on one decoration, but plates, cups, forks, etc. and anything else that impact the adults’ party fun have to be high quality. I’ll buy the more expensive stuff in that case.

PPR: What could party stores do to ensure that you return for all your birthday party supply needs?
A birthday club would be great. If I signed my kids up and then received a $5 off coupon the month before their birthday or a coupon for a free bunch of balloons, you can bet I’d redeem the coupon and then get everything else I needed while I was there.

If stores have to increase prices on say, a pack of Turtles paper plates, why don’t they offer a few free latex balloons in a matching color with each party purchase? Just something small that doesn’t cost much will make people feel like it’s worth it for shopping small.

It’s all about the location I’m in. If I’m near a big box store, I’ll run in, otherwise, the party store gets my business if I happen to be close. Reward cards would be nice, but the rewards would have to be significant and worth it. As in, don’t make me buy 15 packages of plates in order to receive $1 off my next purchase. Send me a legitimate $5 off coupon with no restrictions and I’ll be in for sure.

Be awesome the first time I go there. I use the same party store every year for all my kids’ parties because I know they have everything. I’ll even drive a bit further because I know it’s one-stop shopping. If they delivered inflated balloons right before the event, they’d get my money every time.

And of course, coupons, coupons, coupons! The only thing moms like saving more than time is money.

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