In this questioning time of retail, economy, and how the country is going; we all have one thing in common. We love a NEW YEAR. It brings with it all sorts of new promises, new ideas, new outlooks, things that just are going to make a change. We make resolutions, watch the old year out and welcome in the new, and somehow we just know that the fresh start will be exciting. The past is behind us start of a new year will somehow be different.

In most households we settle in to enjoy the memories of the past holiday, take a break from the busy schedules, watch the snow coming down in the mountains, eat left over’s, and head for all the sales in the stores. Isn’t it fun to just mosey through the aisles of tousled left over’s to find that box of cards that says YOU and gosh it is such a deal? Exhilarating!

You have a NEW YEAR as well. So here is the catch!!!! You have a retail shop, some great items that got passed by in the rush, and now you are anxious to clear out the old to bring in the new. How do we find a buyer for all the still wonderful gift items and make room for the new merchandise? Certainly you do not want to clutter the shelves out back, you need that room for the new things, but you would like to at least recoup what you have into it. From a shopper who has been on all ends of wholesale, retail and as a buyer, here are some easy tips.

Advertising: A newspaper ad, several well placed flyers, a newsletter or however you keep in touch with your customers is the first thing you do. Sit down and write it like you would read something that you HAD to attend. Get excited!! Secondly you will need a sign that says SALE on your door or property where it can be seen, this is a must. That will bring in all sorts of lookers to see what sort of a sale it really is, even if they didn’t read it in the paper, they will see it as they drive by.  Make this colorful and eye catching with balloons, streamers and make it as easy to read in a large size print.

We all love a bargain, and who doesn’t like what you can’t see? Set this open house up the beginning of January so you are ready for the new seasons ahead. Set up a table with some grab bags, or call them SURPRISE, or GIVE YOURSELF A GIFT, written on the outside. Brown lunch bags will do, staple the top together neatly. Set these bags on top of other store items that are for sale. With signage you could announce a sneak preview of the spring items coming up in a few weeks, and use the items you already have for props under and around the table if you like for extra sales. Set a long rectangle table with a plain table cover not wrinkled, as you walk in the door. It should be attractive and the first thing they see. Have a New Year Baby with a sign selling these bags. Now how would you perceive seeing this??? Would you not like to take a bag or two home? A hidden surprise is always anticipated and we love it.

So here is the way I would suggest doing it. Inside these bags you will have placed left over items from the past year. Each one can be different. Your sign will say $5.00 or $10.00 each, and inside you can put $10.00 to $20.00 dollars worth of merchandise. Can be the wholesale price you paid or a little more to recoup some of the retail part or even free items that you have to add value. Toss in some candy or candles to make each bag a value that will be remembered. Your customers will love these once they are opened, and will tell others and be back for more. It is a Christmas gift after Christmas for themselves and to share. Plus it now has freed your inventory, or mistakes and you are ready for the next sales ahead.

If you set these bags up right, it will not only be enticing to the eye, but also to the bargain hunter in all of us. It will allow you to show off some of the upcoming spring items at this time as well, and with the % coupons in the bags will inspire repeat customers.

Everyone loves a party! Another idea to liquidate your years left over’s is to hold a cookie and punch party perhaps in the middle to end of the month of January. This is always a fun way to do a little shopping for your customers in a time that they enjoy getting out for a little ride and change, and also enjoy the refreshments, music, and maybe have in a vendor or two to show the new products and items upcoming. Call it a GATHERING OF THE NEW, SEASON AHEAD PARTY, or something about the merchandise you will be offering for the spring line will be available. This would be a good time to have a large basket of the SURPRISE bags set on the side of the room, because there will be those who will look for them each time they come into your shop once you carry them. And if they came to the SALE at the beginning of the month they may be looking for these.

To hold a GATHERING OF THE NEW cookies and punch event, you will want to have out all the items that you were able to find at the shows for spring and summer. So it may be cold outside, but as soon as they enter into your party it is spring/summer. The colors are light pinks and yellows all over the shop so it looks like a dazzling event. Makes you feel warm as you partake of the cookies, and mosey around the tables and counters of spring uplifting items. Flowers and light music fills the shop, your bags all get a piece of yellow or pink tissue in them, and you are loving the chance to show what you were able to find at the shows. You do want some light soft music playing so the customer isn’t afraid others can hear them breath. It is far more relaxing and more conducive to shopping.

It makes me want to come to this event now. This event however is not a good time to have a SALE table as it makes what you are showing off seem less valuable. Like eventually their items too will be on sale. So avoid the SALE table at this February event and enjoy the NEW. Make it a huge event. A way to let your customers know that you have only their gift buying in mind as you choose from the many show items you can find.

The unveiling of the show stoppers is what this event is all about, it will get a jump on the other shops, and it can be held anytime in February or March. Who knows it may be a huge reason to hit the winter shows as you will need more merchandise…..!!! Surprise your customers, don’t do what everyone else does, and entertain them as well as dazzle them. The customer is who you want to spoil and pamper. They are the ones who will keep your shop running and call it ‘the place to go’. If some day you aren’t up to smiling you will see sales go down. Being up and helpful but quiet is a good rule to any shop keeper. They see you as well as your shop!

I do know that there are many shows in January that you will want to attend, so the first SALE event may be the time to hire a couple of vendors to cover for you, or family member who can let them know where you are and to be ready for the next party in February!!! Customers LOVE to meet your family, they love to know where you are, and if you are shopping for them they will be all smiles. February party is fun, valentine sugar cookies, and perhaps a tea party. It is endless with imagination.

Get a notebook and pen: Each month gives you so many ideas that on one of these chilly day, curl up with a notebook and a pen, set down each month and write under it what that month means to you? You may be very surprised at what you come up with and how your customers will benefit from your ideas. The main thing is to keep it all simple, easy to duplicate for your customers, clever small things like cut out hearts on a string from red/white/pink paper. This might hang across the windows, and it is something to keep the young next generation of business owners wanting to help, and busy as well. I am all for bringing the next generations into a business in ways they can contribute. Could have something to do with teaching kindergarten for 22 years and having 5 grand-children…! Who knows!