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Create holiday success

We turn Fruehauf's Patio & Garden Center in Boulder, Colo., into a Winter Wonderland at Christmas time. We have a two-acre facility so there is a lot of room for decorating.

We light up our center with outdoor lights and lawn decor so customers can see us if they drive by at night. Inside, we set up animated displays (including moving reindeer, a fishing polar bear, a raccoon roasting marshmallows and more) plus 175 theme-decorated trees.

We have been successful with our Christmas display for more than 25 years. It brings in many customers at a time of year when people aren't necessarily thinking about outdoor living.

Here's how we make creating our Christmas Wonderland fun and easy to do:

  • We purchase holiday products throughout the year at gift and accessory shows, starting with the Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishing Show in January (this year it will be very convenient because we can attend the Casual Furniture Retailers Forum Jan. 10–12, then stay on for the gift show). We attend local shows as well as larger shows in Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

  • We create display themes from ideas we see at shows, as well as shopping for products in favorite traditional themes. We purchase gifts, ornaments and artificial trees to fit these themes.

  • We usually make our purchases during the gift shows. The Christmas vendors usually have low minimum orders, offer dating programs and accept credit cards for payment (we can add to our frequent flier miles).

  • By attending different markets we try to find merchandise that other stores in our area won't have. We unwrap and creatively display ornaments so customers can see and touch them, which sets us apart from the mass merchant store displays. All the ornaments are for sale as are the artificial trees.

  • We don't put any casual furniture away to make room for our Holiday items. We simply add it to our displays. We use lots of small trees in bright colors in the center of tables and accessorize them with items coordinated with the themes. Larger trees we nestle among the furniture sets and coordinate them with themes as well.

  • To kick off the season we have a Christmas Open House. It's a private party from 7–9 p.m. the Friday after Halloween. We send out invitations to customers who have signed up for our mailing list. We have beer, wine and refreshments and entertainment.
    We had more than 300 people at our Open House Nov. 5, which made for a crazy two hours, but the word-of-mouth advertising and loyalty we got from it was well worth it. We followed it with radio and newspaper ads telling about our displays and theme trees.

  • After Christmas we have a sale on remaining trees and ornaments. We only run it for a few weeks then pack up what's left to be refreshed next year.

Some of the popular themed trees for 2004 were: Cartoon characters, such as Sponge Bob; TV and movies; pets; sports; garden; traditional; tropical; food and drinks. Among the unusual themes was grilling with ketchup, mustard and pickles ornaments.

Fruehauf's Patio & Garden Center displays 175 themed Christmas trees around its store, attracting customers who usually wouldn't stop in for outdoor furniture during the winter season. From visiting several gift shows throughout the year, employees are able to generate merchandising ideas for the displays, and even incorporate casual furniture into the mix, instead of storing it away during the holidays.

Stockings are hung from an outdoor fireplace, surrounded by Christmas decor.

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