7 Ingredients to Create a Delicious Holiday Retail Event

Fall is upon us and with it comes a bustling season filled with media opportunities, from company party outfit ideas to New Year’s trend predictions. While most brands know that the holidays offer opportunities to secure coveted holiday gift-guides and book winter fashion and party tips on TV segments, adding a well-timed and thoughtfully produced pop-shop or trunk show can really add a spark to those end of year sales and PR results.

When thinking about making an impact with an event, consider the following.

Choose an unexpected theme

Before you dive head-first into an ugly sweater theme, consider timing your event with October and November harvest-themed festivities. For example, Halloween offers a ton of creative event opportunities for fashion & lifestyle brands. The National Retail Federation predicts revenue derived directly from Halloween decorations, costumes, parties, and greeting cards is expected to reach $8.4 billion in 2016, a sharp increase from previous years. Rather than compete in a sea of holiday gift events, strike early with a costume party, pumpkin carving or Day of the Dead event to bring shoppers and media in-store. Whatever you choose, be creative and offer attendees something more unique than your basic “shop and drink” soiree. 

Align with an Existing Event

Go after event opportunities in the largest metropolitan area possible to garner a bigger return in terms of exposure, press coverage, and sales. It’s often a better strategy to work with existing retailers in key demographics rather than creating a stand-alone pop-up shop in a different venue. Whenever possible, work with these stores to align your event with existing special shopping days, like a “First Friday” shopping night in which local businesses stay open late and strolling from door to door, is encouraged. If your host store or boutique is having a special sale, that’s a great block of time to work with. Most stores do a wonderful job of decorating for Autumn, and you can help them by coming up with a special window and instore display that fits in with their look but highlights your brand.

Find a Unique Venue

For online-only brands, or those without a strong presence in a big city like NYC, a pop-up shop offers a way to drive buzz while providing a unique chance for consumers and media to experience the product line in person. Websites like Appear Here NYC and The Storefront can help source great locations throughout North America. If you’re a smaller firm that can’t send your entire staff across country, consider partnering with an event planner, PR firm, or even a regional blogger to ease the effort a bit while relying on local expertise.

Offer something only available at the event

Fashion brands always benefit from having designs walking around on a person rather than hanging on a rack, so consider informal modeling and fashion presentations. When it comes to successful events, people want to feel as though they’re getting in on something special.  Consider creating a few special or limited-edition pieces just for the event. Jewelry designers like Stephen Dweck routinely inscribe their trunk show pieces with an engraving pen; and Christian Louboutin autographs the soles of the shoes he sells at events.  You can also monogram bags, sweaters and other garments with the buyer’s initials and sign a special label.

It’s often a better strategy to work with existing retailers in key demographics rather than creating a stand-alone pop-up shop in a different venue.

Create photo opportunities

Online event results are boosted by the social media activities of attendees; even if your guests don’t buy immediately they’ll have the image to refer to and they often will order online later, show their images to their friends, or come back at a later date and buy.

Ensure there are easy, flattering and fun spots for participants to snap and gram, as well as branded materials to include in a flat lay. Pick someone on staff whose job it is to encourage photography, take photos for guests and encourage hashtag use while educating on the product line and softly pushing purchases.

Don’t ignore the details

Whether you are hoping to capture the interest of media for PR opportunities or driving immediate sales with a consumer audience, make sure to put thought into how you will merchandise your inventory. Rather than spreading jewelry out across a table tap local influencers as possible to wear the pieces and   keep re-accessorizing and changing outfits to keep it fresh.

Have ample food and drink; consider creating a special cocktail or non-alcoholic punch that adds to your event theme but keep appetizers to easily handled finger foods that don’t drip or squish. Sweets like cookies and candy, especially this time of year are always a big draw and can double as decoration.

Small gifts are great

A small gift, like a fragrance sample, stackable ring or resuable tote is a nice way to thank your attendees for coming (and encouraging future word of mouth, social photography and free promotion). Consider limiting gifts to the first attendants to encourage early visitors and keep gifting affordable.

The holidays are a great time to spend some valuable in-person time showing customers and media a great time during a time of year when spending is up and everyone is feeling a bit extra festive. With a unique event concept and enthusiastic on-site team, a retail event is a great way to close out the year.

About Carolyn Delacorte

Carolyn is Founder and CEO at Boxwood Press, a boutique public relations and marketing agency specializing in the beauty, fashion, accessory, food, baby and gift industries.