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Season's Greetings

Using the retail calendar as a promotional tool

For many businesses, the calendar that reads "January, February, March . . ." isn't nearly as important as the one that reads, "Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day" and so on. The latter is the retail calendar, and as its name implies, it's the marketing tool of choice for many merchants.

"We pretty much live and die by the retail calendar," says Jennifer St. Jean, 23, co-owner and manager of Celebrations Unlimited, a Grand Junction, Colorado, party supply store. "From Valentine's Day and graduations to Halloween, Hanukkah and Christmas, we're always looking ahead to the next holiday."

Sure, that's great for a party supply store. But how does it apply toyour business? The retail calendar can offer opportunities for many businesses to create innovative and effective promotions. The following steps will help you look at this marketing tool in a new light:

  • Examine buying habits and think creatively. Each holiday or season fosters its own buying habits, according to St. Jean. For example, May and June cover Mother's Day, Father's Day and many graduations and weddings. Automobile repair shops, computer training companies or housecleaning services can create gift certificates or service packages that would be useful, unique and unconventional alternatives to traditional gifts during this season.
  • Look for publicity opportunities. Nathan's Famous, the renowned hot dog maker, for instance, holds an international hot-dog-eating contest at Coney Island each Independence Day. The holiday tie-in is perfect for a patriotic push in the event's publicity materials. Similarly, announcing a search for the most romantic couple in time for Valentine's Day or for the messiest house in time for "spring cleaning" season could give your business a good bit of attention. Be sure, however, that your efforts are appropriate for your target audience and marketing goals.
  • Make your own holiday. If you're tired of the same old celebrations, check out Chase's Calendar of Events to find a new one. This comprehensive listing contains more than 12,000 entries, including celebrity birthdays, astrological phenomena, culinary celebrations and festivals from around the world. From Dr. Seuss' Birthday (March 2) and Elephant Appreciation Day (September 22) to Peanut Butter Lovers' Month (November), you can be sure to find a holiday that tickles your fancy. If you still can't find one, declare your own--Chase's Calendar of Events shows you how. To order a copy of the book, call (800)
    323-4900, ext. 147.
  • Plan ahead. Regardless of how you use the retail calendar, give yourself enough time to create effective promotions. Start by looking three to six months in advance to determine how you can capitalize on what's to come.

Gwen Moran is president of Moran Marketing Associates, a public relations and marketing communications agency in Ocean, New Jersey. She is currently completing a marketing workbook titled Promote Your Business. E-mail her at moranmarketing@erols.com

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Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the May 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Season's Greetings.

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