Sep 21, 2011
The Complete Package
Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

Elevate an ordinary birthday to an extraordinary sale

Decorations are a party staple, but there’s nothing like getting a birthday card in the mail or digging through the tissue paper of a gift bag to find just what might be inside. In this age of electronic communication, knowing that someone took the time to put together the complete package adds to the specialness of the day.

As retailers, you have the opportunity to help customers create that complete birthday package for the guest of honor – from the card to the gift wrap – elevating a birthday from “just another day” to something so much more.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered
The complete birthday package starts with a card. While birthday cards can often be overlooked in party stores, they’re the easiest way to not only share a sentiment, but also increase sales.

“About 60 percent of everyday greeting cards purchased are for birthdays, so this is clearly the most important caption to have depth in the offering,” said George White of Up With Paper. “Importantly, birthday cards are a fantastic impulse buy, appealing to a customer at any time and regardless of the nature of the store visit.”

Krista Ohlsen of Quotable Cards said that when spending that extra bit for a gift may not be an option for customers, giving a card is an inexpensive solution. Retailers should include a good assortment of different lines.

“So often the retailers carry the big lines without remembering that there are lots of people that may be looking for a line they don’t typically see everywhere,” Ohlsen said. “If you’re carrying the same card lines as the drugstore down the street, you will most certainly benefit by branching out a bit with the greeting card range.”

White agreed that consumers who want to shop a giant run of cards by caption are going to a big box store; consumers looking for something unique, fun and memorable will come to a specialty store, and be drawn in by a look before narrowing down to the caption.

“Consumers shopping for greeting cards in specialty stores are by definition looking for something unique, so specialty stores need to provide it,” White said. “Hand-made ornamentations, as well as add-ons like sound and light (and pop-ups) continue to grow in importance to greeting card buyers in specialty stores.”

Ron Kanfi of NobleWorks said the cards most likely to stand out in a party-store setting are those that feature many of the same bright colors and fun themes as the partyware sold. And in keeping with the party-store atmosphere, choose cards with fun, short inner verses rather than those with long or overly sentimental messaging. You should also be carrying humorous milestone-birthday cards to complement milestone-birthday merchandise.

“Birthday cards are an excellent opportunity to make add-on sales,” Kanfi said. “Make sure they leave with a greeting card by merchandising them near the register and gift-packaging displays. You can even offer a free greeting card with purchase of (wrapping, ribbon, etc.) and place signage throughout the store that reads, ‘Did you remember to buy a greeting card with that?'”

Gift Solutions
That card is often placed on top of a gift, and retailers that offer smaller, lower priced items have the chance to fill that need for shoppers. Colin Littler, marketing director for Design Design, Inc., said soft pastels and cupcakes are perfect for middle-aged to younger women, or more importantly, someone buying for that demographic.

“Gift ceramics with bright dots can be very appealing to males in that same age range and ‘bling’ items will attract women of all ages,” Littler said. “Add a candle assortment with humorous quips to appeal to those who value humor or those in an older demographic who appreciate a loving jab at their age.”

Littler said that regardless of the specific item, the customer will appreciate any time you can merchandise the gift packaging presentation with the gift itself. They’ll love an easy solution where they can look like they really thought the entire gift all the way through. There are many possibilities – a greeting card and gift tote with a stationery pad or a plate and mug set with matching gift wrap and ribbon choices, etc.

Although you can technically use any wrap for birthday, there is something about a design that really “says birthday” that reels customers in more often then an all occasion design. And even if you are short on retail space, you can still cleverly fit and display gift bags, as when people are in a rush, the gift bag is a quick and easy impulse purchase.

“Cupcakes and sweets are still really popular icons for gifting and unique type treatments that have a retro flair are popular in the market,” said Nancy Dickson of The Gift Wrap Co. “I am also seeing a call for gift specific packaging such as bags and boxes sized for technology items like e-readers, ipads – basically i-anything!”

Dickson said that what makes great merchandising is when a retailer shows the same item or design changed ever so slightly to widen the age appeal. For example, changing the ribbons or toppers can take a simple box from the perfect parcel specially wrapped just for Nana to a fantastic gift a tween girl just can’t wait to open. This also speaks to budget-conscious shoppers in the market.

Birthday Balloons
Another item that speaks to the budget-conscious birthday shopper and the spirit of celebration are balloons. Betty Vlamis, executive vice president of Pioneer Balloon Co., said that balloons are a form of social expression, and the graphics and messages – on foil balloons especially – can be targeted to capture just the right sentiment for the occasion and for the personality of the recipient.

“People are looking for something that speaks to them and reflects their uniqueness, so retailers should offer balloons that are age-specific or personalized,” Vlamis said. “Classic balloon designs retain their popularity because of their universal appeal. These are colorful and have easy-to-read typography and upbeat themes.”

She added that cupcakes remain hot for birthday themes, as do other sweets like cake and ice cream, and that dots are always popular, especially when combined with different patterns or designs (like cupcakes).

“Retailers can add a great deal of perceived value when they combine balloons with different products and/or other balloons, enhancing their profitability,” Vlamis said. “For example, tie an 18-inch Microfoil into a weighted bow and you have an easy centerpiece or a cash-and-carry offering.”

Balloons draw a person’s attention to what’s being sold within the store, so adding balloons to plush animals or other small gifts makes the gift special, but also enhances the atmosphere in the store.

From displaying cards and gifts to balloons and gift wrap, every bit helps the consumer visualize that complete party package, which can result in complete party profits.


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