Sep 28, 2010
Retirement Parties
Penny Warner, Special to Party & Paper Retailer

Work hard so they don’t have to

In 2009, 2.74 million people filed for Social Security – more than any other year in history. Additionally, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) claims more than 40 million members. These statistics translate into big business for retirement parties, and a key opportunity for party retailers.

Whether Baby Boomers have carefully planned their retirement or they’re just getting out of the rat race because of the economy, they’re excited about the adventures ahead and want to celebrate. Take advantage of this important milestone by turning your store into Retirement Party Central. With these simple tips, watch your sales – and customer reach – increase.

Timeframe and Target
Choose a special week or month – such as in July, which is National Retirement Planning Month – to focus on this special milestone in your store. Start spreading the word a few weeks in advance about any activities you’re planning via advertising or signage within the store. This outreach should help to build awareness among both new and existing customers.

Think about local organizations that might serve as connections to the retiree audience. Financial planners or travel agents, for instance, are in regular contact with those getting their finances in order or planning a significant trip around retirement. There may be an opportunity to provide these organizations with fliers or coupons to pass along to their clients.

Themed Displays
Once you’ve chosen a timeframe to focus on retirement parties, start by setting up a theme table within the store featuring party goods that relate to this milestone. For example, you might hang up a sign or banner that reads, “Gone Fishing … Permanently!” or “Take this Job – I’m Retiring!” Then, set out props and decorations from the store to match, such as a party-game fishing pole, some fancy flip-flips, a beach hat, a few plastic Hawaiian lei, or Mai-Tai drink glasses and “Coconut” cups.

If you have room, set out a deck chair and fill it with other retirement party products, such as packaged invitations or imprinted papers, a tropical paper tablecloth, paper plates and napkins, and a plastic punch bowl filled with giveaway penny candy.

Make the display eye-catching and colorful with helium-filled balloons tied to the props, or light up the area with a string of festive party lights. Play a tropical CDs or the Hit Crew’s Retirement Party music in the background, with songs like “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” and “Celebration” to add to the atmosphere.

Come in Costume
To further emphasize the theme, have your staff dress as stereotypical retirees – in bright polyester leisure suits, Hawaiian shirts, fishing gear, housecoats, logo T-shirts, golf clothes and beach togs. Give them funky sunglasses, along with throwaway cameras to wear around their necks. Or have them all wear T-shirts with the words “Retirement Party” written on the front and the name of the store on the back.

Be sure to get customers in on the costume fun by having staff members hand out T-shirts, disposable cameras or other giveaways as guests enter the store. This will also give staff a chance to gauge interest in retirement party planning and funnel customers to the appropriate displays within the store.

Customer Entertainment
Instead of devoting just one section of your store to the party theme, carry it throughout the store with a game suggestion that customers can use. Fill a number of balloons with helium and tie them off with ribbon. Write a different retirement suggestion on each balloon, such as “Finally learn to program the VCR,” “Return your neighbor’s baking supplies” or “Write a romance novel,” and so on. Then tie the marked balloons to sections of the store to draw customers’ attention.

Print out some retirement quotes on decorative paper and tape them to end caps around the store. You can find funny quotes online, such as “The best time to start thinking about your retirement is before the boss does,” “When a person retires and time no longer matters, he’s presented with a watch,” and “It is time I stepped aside for a less experienced and less able man.”

If you want an in-store party game idea that really “pops,” write down retiree predictions – such as “You will retire in five years” or “You will own a luxury yacht”- on small pieces of paper, insert them into balloons, inflate the balloons with helium and tie them off with ribbon. With each purchase, let each customer choose a balloon, pop it and discover his or her retirement prediction inside.

Great Gifts for Retirees
Set up a gifts table using products from the store that suggests hobbies and activities for the retiree. For example, a sailor hat for the wannabe traveler, toy binoculars for the bird watcher, craft paints for the budding artist or face make-up for the future clown.
Look around the store for other great retirement gifts ideas, such as a decorative pen; a deck of cards or some colorful dice; a travel game; or a variety of drink glasses for champagne, beer or mai-tais.

If your store offers craft supplies, create a mock-up of a scrapbook page featuring a photo of a retiree and a funny caption. Encourage customers to purchase the papers, cameras and supplies at the store, and then set up an “instant scrapbook” center for their party guests at home.

After all, they may have a little extra time on their hands-hands that can be filled with fun and functional product from your store.

Penny Warner has more than 25 years of experience as an author and party planner. She has published more than 50 books, including 16 specific to parties. For more information, visit

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