Doesn’t it feel like a moment ago we were all yelling, “Happy new year!” and then we blinked and it was November? Time is wild, man. Anyway, whether you realize it or not, the holiday season is here. And, for distributors who have tried their best to deny the changing of the season, there's still time to get in on the holiday and seasonal promotions selling game.
To get you in the holiday spirit and give some inspiration, we spoke with Brandon Brown, vice president of marketing for SnugZ USA, Jordan, Utah, and Jason Broadbent, national accounts manager for Galaxy Balloons Inc., Cleveland. So throw on your blinking light-strand novelty necklace and grab a cup of cheer, because it’s about to get festive.
1. It’s the thought that counts
There’s a reason this time of year is so synonymous with gift giving. Pretty much the second Halloween parties let out, you’ll start seeing holiday-themed commercials for big box retailers and popular consumer brands. While the promotional products industry isn’t retail-focused, it’s certainly retail-influenced. Because of this, gift sets and things like that are hugely popular this time of year.
“Obviously gift sets and higher perceived items work best for [the] holiday season,” Brown said. “Items that work well here [are SnugZ’s] Silhouette, ThinkTank and Snowedin gift sets. But don’t forget about smaller-priced and smaller-sized items [that] make great stocking stuffers as well.”
Brown specifically mentioned things like small toys or tools. Think about the way you’d shop for a loved one. You can get them the big-time gift that takes the biggest space under the tree (or next to it, if it’s a bike or something), and then you have your stocking stuffers, which are in no way an afterthought, just typically smaller.
Aside from the gift-giving aspect, it’s important to remember that the true spirit of the holiday season is getting together with loved ones and celebrating together. Decorations are a vital part of that. Once the halls are decked, the spirit kicks in a little harder. Distributors can help their end-buyers and end-users get into holiday mode with decorative promotional products, Broadbent says.
“Holiday ornaments [are popular],” he said. “Ornaments are fairly universal, and [it’s] always interesting to see the range of imprints from rock bands, churches, liquor companies, weddings—the list goes on.”
2. Now is the time
“Typically [the holiday selling period starts] mid-October, and becomes very busy leading up to and after Thanksgiving,” Broadbent said. “We promote all year to some degree, but ramp up with mail brochures in September, and email blasts through October and November.”
For Brown, the best time to start thinking about your holiday promotional offerings is “immediately after the fireworks go out on the 4th of July.” “Yes, it seems to creep further and further into summer every year, but we have our Gift Collection catalog and new product ideas delivered by July 1,” Brown said. “As a supplier, we plan eight to 10 months earlier to ensure we can all have marketing materials ready for the catalog and website. Then, ideally, inventory is in-house and ready for delivery by September.”
It’s in your best interest to start as soon as you can. That doesn’t mean you should be focusing on it with your entire attention during your summer vacation, but no one wants to be the obvious last-minute shopper with a plastic bag full of unwrapped miscellany from the pharmacy. It shows a lack of thought and care.
Give yourself the time to take things slow and plan your holiday selling period while you’re working on other things. That way, when the hysteria of the holidays really gets going in earnest, you’re well on your way to getting everything done on your “shopping list.” There’s a reason Santa Claus holes up in the North Pole all year.
“The earlier they get out to their customers, the better,” Broadbent said of distributors. “Production is extremely busy due to the short window, and they also want to secure inventory. A lot of clients wait until the very last minute in general, but [that] seems to be amplified around the holiday season and catches them off guard toward the end of November.”
3. Know where to shop
The key to a really great gift is to know the recipient and what they like. Sure, you could play it safe with something like a gift card that appeases everyone, but to give something that took a lot of thought and care shows an extra effort.
In the promotional space, this means doing your due diligence with suppliers and finding out exactly what they can offer to you, and what you can do for your clients to fulfill their holiday needs.
“Utilize holiday stock patterns and themes from the supplier to get the ideas flowing,” Brown said. “Pitch several price points, from the stocking stuffers to the expensive executive gift.” He added that when it comes to zeroing in on specific sales verticals, it’s pretty much universal these days.
“Gift-giving season is for everyone,” he said. “Some of the most common verticals may include retail, hospitality, political, government, nonprofit or give-back, corporate environments, employee appreciation, end-of-year goal achievement, or anniversaries.”
4. Don’t be afraid to go old-school
It seems like the hottest gifts over the last few decades involve batteries or a charging cable. Electronics are always a safe call for gifts, and they’ll go over swell with the end-users. But there’s still the appreciation for gifts that might last longer.
Broadbent said that, when it comes to products outside the tech category, coaster sets have been popular at Galaxy Balloons Inc. SnugZ has also seen demand for “vintage” gifts that evoke nostalgia, even if you’re too young to remember the items’ heyday.
“Vintage games are on-trend and in demand, and items like the Constrictor Bamboo Tic-Tac-Toe Set or Sidewinder Wood Puzzle Set will create hours of entertainment during cold snowy days by the tree,” Brown said. “Other ideas in this space include our popular Cipher Message Board or Bridger 9-in-1 Money Clip Tool. Another gift-giving trend that is exploding is candles. We have created some incredible scents and sizes that will fit any budget, from the Serenity Concrete Candle to our brand new Copper Tin Candle. Plenty of options, with the tag ‘Batteries not included.’”
When all else fails, socks or a sweater are always a safe call for anyone and everyone. “If none of these work, you can’t go wrong with new clothes,” Brown said.