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 retailcalendar, and as its name implies, it's the marketing tool of choice for manymerchants.

"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 manybusinesses to create innovative and effective promotions. The following stepswill help you look at this marketing tool in a new light:

Examine buying habits and think creatively. Each holiday or season fosters itsown buying habits, according to St. Jean. For example, May and June coverMother's Day, Father's Day and many graduations and weddings. Automobile repairshops, computer training companies or housecleaning services can create giftcertificates or service packages that would be useful, unique andunconventional 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 Islandeach Independence Day. The holiday tie-in is perfect for a patriotic push inthe event's publicity materials. Similarly, announcing a search for the mostromantic couple in time for Valentine's Day or for the messiest house in timefor "spring cleaning" season could give your business a good bit of attention.Be sure, however, that your efforts are appropriate for your target audienceand marketing goals.

Make your own holiday. If you're tired of the same old celebrations, checkout Chase's Calendar of Events to find a new one. This comprehensivelisting contains more than 12,000 entries, including celebrity birthdays,astrological phenomena, culinary celebrations and festivals from around theworld. From Dr. Seuss' Birthday (March 2) and Elephant Appreciation Day(September 22) to Peanut Butter Lovers' Month (November), you can be sure tofind a holiday that tickles your fancy. If you still can't find one, declareyour own--Chase's Calendar of Events shows you how. To order a copy ofthe book, call (800) 323-4900, ext. 147.

Plan ahead. Regardless of how you use the retail calendar, give yourself enoughtime to create effective promotions. Start by looking three to six months inadvance to determine how you can capitalize on what's to come.