Sep 21, 2011
Milestone Memories
Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

Profits increase as the ages move up

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I turned 30 years old this year. The only reason I’m sharing this milestone information is because it’s apparently the age when jokes about getting old and starting that trek up and over the hill can begin.

But lucky for me, that hill seems to be getting pushed back more and more. According to AARP, more than 7,000 people will turn 65 years old every single day in 2011, so when it comes to going over the hill, 50 is now the new 40, which is now the new 30.

If you’re confused, don’t blame it on age. Just throw on a party hat and let the fun begin.

Party Props
The stereotype associated with reaching certain milestone ages has changed from negative to simply another reason to party.

“Over the Hill and milestone birthday parties have been traditionally known for their aging humor, black decor and ‘elderly’ gag gifts,” said Kelly Karrmann of Creative Converting. “Although still popular, we’re seeing milestone birthday parties, as well as their host, take on a more personable and colorful approach when celebrating the guest of honor. Types of personalization can include choosing a party theme related to the honoree’s likes or even dislikes – for example, a hobby or sport loved by the honoree.”

Sherri Foxman, CEO and founder of Party 411 agreed, saying that 40 was the biggest milestone birthday, then it moved to 50 and now the majority of calls they get are for 60th birthdays.

“Our clients still tend to go with the decade they appreciated the most,” Fox said. “Sixties kids are ’60s hippies at heart and they want to go back to Woodstock; those turning 50 remember the ’80s as their favorite decade and want to celebrate it; 40-year-olds tend to be a bit more trendy.”

For those looking to poke a little fun, using gag gifts as the take-off on a theme is a classic approach. Foxman said typical gag gifts include the walker or cane with a horn, humor books about turning (fill in the age) and even a board game called “Senior Moments.” There are pillows with sayings like “I still have a full deck, but I shuffle slower” and T-shirts and baseball caps that say, “Old People Rock.”

“Colors for these humorous themes can vary from bright and attention grabbing to the classic black and white,” said Amanda Dion of “People don’t want to follow the classic all the time, so providing variety will make them more excited to buy into this theme. Display those classic decorations, but give the customer some options – have the age candles in black and white, but also have other colors available.”

Milestone Motif
Foxman said the best displays show the theme as a package so the customer doesn’t have to think hard about what to do. Find a particular product/favor/decor to play on and then add everything from there.

And there’s nothing wrong with taking the Over the Hill theme and customizing it, like offering personalized candy bar favors or water bottles with their age and a color match. Personalization will guarantee a customer comes back, especially if the ideas are unique. When talking to a customer, Foxman always asks what the celebrant does, his/her favorite sport, etc. and tries to find something that is unique and fun to work with.

“For example, we planned an event for a man turning 75,” she said. “After a brief conversation, I found out he collected movie posters, so we did an awards ceremony for his birthday-The Davids, 75th Anniversary Edition-and had an Oscar cake made with his face, etc. Upselling is most important for the retailer, and again, it goes back to personalization – cocktail napkins, seating cards if needed, matching paper goods, banners, etc.”

Dion agreed, adding that many of those personalized items fit the growing demand for cost-effective gifts as well. People look for something that is not only special, but also easier on the wallets.

“Some great items that fit the growing demands for cost effective gifts are things that are personalized, or things that will bring that birthday person back to the special day, even years later,” Dion said. “These could be things like 50th birthday T-shirts or personalized mugs. There are also different Over the Hill items that allow for the guests to write something on like a T-shirt or stuffed animal.”

Age-Old Tips
Karrmann said retailers should give the shopper ideas that can help them envision the overall experience of the party with their specific theme. This will help steer the hostess in the right direction, giving them the confidence they’ll have all the essentials they need to throw the “perfect party.”

The key is organizing your supplies into themes, and in each section, provide all the decorations for that theme. Dion said that grouping these items close together ensures that the customer doesn’t forget any needed items, and will also make them more inclined to buy a few extras that they didn’t think of.

“Create a gift section,” she added. “Use this to display the gag gifts, as well as some sentimental and fun gifts. Separating the gifts and decorations will allow for customers not planning the celebration to come in and easily find a great gift for the party.”

It’s also important to clearly label everything. If things are on sale, use bright colors to attract to those items. Even label things that are just generally priced inexpensively. Some people frequent the store a few times to just decide their theme, and the labels on how cost effective those decorations are will ensure they return to purchase when the time comes.

Dion also suggests that if you have other services to offer like balloon decor or personalized items (mugs, T-shirts, etc.,) make sure there is a sign or banner in that section so the customer can see it. Create a sample T-shirt and display a bunch of balloons to give the customer an idea of what they could purchase together.

“Finally, join the customers in the excitement and importance of this milestone,” Dion said. “If you show how important you think that birthday is, it gives the customer added momentum to make their party perfect.”

This will guarantee that no matter what milestone they’re celebrating – 40, 50, 60 or 100 – it will be the new 30.

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