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Many of us are over Christmas trading already. What many retailers had in the stores is already gone. Is that a good place to be in?
Seasonal merchandise is always a major challenge, especially for store brands. That’s why most retailers steer well away from Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. But the major holidays of the year are different. Depending on the country and predominant cultural holidays, these “big ones” are tough. What to do? And there is profit and loyalty to be developed.
Over the years, my take is that the big holidays are a major opportunity to leverage the power of your brands. The key is in destination products. That is, those unique items that your customers can only find in your stores for the short season. The products for which you have no competition. The products that are unassailably synonymous with your stores.
Many retailers do not have such products, and rely on minor tweaks of packaging to existing packaging. That might work, but “me too” is still “me too.” Commodities are always going to be commodities, and their customers are the most easily wooed away from you by deals and discounts.
This holiday season is likely the most competitive we have ever seen in most countries around the world, and with the growth in digital sales—especially with the additional growth from non-traditional retailers—we will continue to say that for the foreseeable future.
So what’s to do? The iPhone 5 was only available from Apple sellers. Same deal for iOS 7. Ditto 64-bit architecture. That’s how we need to think, whether in fresh, grocery, non-foods, HBC, et al. Create a seasonal think tank in your business, and make sure there is a good portfolio to work with for the next season.
Product development should always have some “destination” in its portfolio, and this is where we need to think for each major season in the future. If we look at the retailers with the biggest penetration, they all have major items that are their calling cards. Budgets are reviewed very carefully to ensure no inventory is left over for costly write downs. Build growth as you would for any key growth area. But Halloween candy is not going to be one of them. Leave that alone.
I suggest you shop your competition very carefully. Identify every SKU with a touch of seasonality to it and see how it appears in the weeks leading up to the drop-dead date—like with fashion. Many retailers communicate that this is a “while stocks last” story. So be it. If the product is totally unique and definably your own, then customers will come back next time (especially if you communicate with them directly). Plus, they’ll come back to you for the other non-seasonal destination products you have them hooked on!