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Celebrate seasonal changes

Fall is my favorite time of year. The change of the season from hot, humid days rolls into crisp blue skies and cool nights. It creates a perfect time in the evening to spend outdoors around a fire pit and alfresco dining.

For some retailers, fall signals a shift in merchandise from bright summer colors, flying past fall into Christmas. Honestly, I understand the need to get as much bang out of the inventory as possible because Christmas is only 120 days away, but as a consumer, I don't like it.

Think about ways you can celebrate all the seasons with your merchandising. Whereas, in summer we focus on outdoor activities around the pool and water, fall can be used to focus on outdoor living that involves the trend of fire pits and fireplaces. I live in North Carolina where we luckily get four distinct seasons. Just when you get tired of one, the other is there. That philosophy can work in your store as well. Here are a few tips that you can use now going into fall.

  1. At the start of each season, flip your merchandise around. A change of location gives the product new life. When it moves in the store, customers who may have been in to browse three months ago will look at it all as new and exciting.

  2. Plan monthly events timed to the season. Suggestion: Have an October-Fest with a local microbrewery. A "beer tasting" at your store brings in customers. They sample some great brats on your outdoor grills and enjoy some local brew. Have a drawing that evening for all who register. This can also be used to build up your customer mailing list for upcoming events.

  3. Have a "Make a Wreath" in-store contest. So often we think of Christmas for wreaths to decorate our front door and hearth, but reinvent this to include fall. This is a great way to focus on fire sets and hearths. Sponsor this along with the Junior League or hospital auxiliary. All proceeds from the wreaths are donated back to the charity. But think of all the great traffic and good will you will get — not to mention the coverage in the local paper. The prizes could be for fun themes: Best Sports Wreath, Best Seasonal, Best Tacky Wreath, etc.

  4. Decorate the outside to reflect the inside. Place a pair of giant urns outside your front door, filled with large branches and seasonal leaves. The color and texture helps mark the entrance, and gives an opportunity to show off pottery that you have for sale.

  5. Create the aroma of the fall season. Mulling spices and apple cider in a large coffee urn helps share a hospitable shopping experience. A cup of apple cider helps your sales force use this as a greeting point to your customers as they enter your store. The smell creates a warm feeling and memory as they shop.

  6. Style for the season. Trim out your tables and seating with fall themes. Merchandise a seating area for an "outdoor" sports event with a large screen TV. Sports events in the back yard bring to mind great times and fun. Have all your staff celebrate their local team by wearing their favorite jersey. They can use this as a bridge to talk about outdoor seating that you have in-stock for the game day that weekend.

OK now. You have 60–90 days before the Christmas trees take over. Add some fall spice to your store and have some fun.

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