Buy Right for the Holiday Season

Buy the perfect products that your customers will love to give

Cris Willis

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For many retailers, buying is the “fun” part of the job, but it can be stressful.  You probably got into your business because of your love of the product you sell.  Picking out items that you love and putting them together in the store can be so much fun.  Then comes the hard part of managing all of those items and knowing when to order more, when to mark it down, and then continually trying to find “the next big thing!”

Now, as we approach COVID Christmas, you need to be more in tune with your inventory than ever before.

A large part of your Holiday Buying has already happened, now is the time to really watch your inventory.  Be prepared to mark down items that are not selling.  Mark them down in season while you have lots of traffic.  Retailers sometimes hope it will sell at full price and wait to mark it down after the busy season.  Usually, you will end up selling it at a deeper discount in this scenario.  You must also be prepared to reorder quickly if you have items that are selling.

Inventory Management as always having The Right Amount of the Right Stuff at the Right Time.

Susan Negen

This is especially critical in the 4th Quarter as it is make it or break it time for many retailers. If you are overstocked with the wrong merchandise, you will kill your margin when you have to mark it down. (I have been there and done that!)

Or, you can be understocked on great merchandise and miss out on sales. (I have been there and done that too!)

Managing your inventory is a little like managing insulin-dependent diabetes. My oldest daughter is 30 years old now. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 7. After watching her all of these years, this analogy comes to mind. It is a constant juggling act of the Right amount of the Right merchandise at the Right time vs. the Right amount of insulin at the Right time for the Right amount of carbs and exercise. And there are always some unknowns thrown in like a customer wants to buy 30 of 1 item for a party or with diabetes management stress and anxiety can cause your blood sugar to rise.  

You cannot manage your inventory or your diabetes accurately “by the seat of your pants.” Twenty years ago, we did both with paper and pencil, but today technology has made it much easier to manage both

Once my husband and I learned how to manage an Open to Buy system, our lives changed. The information that changed our business is from the Retail Mastery System from WhizBang! Training and our own data analytics report that we wrote as a plug into our CounterPoint POS system.

Study your reports from your POS system weekly, if not daily. You need to have a process in place to analyze your inventory as to what is selling fast and what is a slow seller. If you do not have a system in place, contact me for a FREE 20-Minute Strategy session, and we can talk about how you can identify you’re A, B, and C items. 

You can also find out more about the Retail Mastery System by clicking here.

Buy Promotionally Priced items for your Events

In previous blog posts, we have talked about the importance of having a robust event and promotional calendar. I hope you have planned some events for the rest of October and early November.

Analysts expect customers to start their Christmas shopping early this year. The National Retail Federation has begun a “Shop safe, Shop early” campaign. NRF President and CEO Matt Shay said in a statement that “retailers are ready with inventory and sales, and there is no reason to wait until Thanksgiving weekend to kick off your gift shopping.”

In a CNBC article this week, it stated that according to Coresight’s poll last month, “Nearly 7 in 10 people, or 68.9% of respondents, said they are shifting some of their spending from services to retail products because of COVID-19 restrictions.”  

This season could see consumers spending less on travel, food, concerts, sporting events and more on comfortable clothing, beauty products, desk accessories, and home items. Americans will be looking to exchange useful gifts this COVID Christmas.

So, think about the different categories in your store. Which ones will make the most sense as Christmas gifts this year? Be sure you are covering all of the price points you need.

Whether it is stocking stuffers, Christmas ornaments & décor, wall art, clothing, or kitchenware, you need to have a selection of good, better, best.

Now that we know that the customers will start shopping early and spend more on products this year, let’s talk about the products you need for your events and promotions. Usually, by July or August, I always had all of my promotional items purchased and planned for the 4th Quarter. I realize that this has been a crazy year, and you may not have been to markets or seen many reps in person, but it is not too late.

You need to buy or already have on order some promotionally priced items or vendor closeouts for your events, promotions, and giveaways. Do not just mark down your regular items for a Black Friday deal.

Remember from last week’s blog that Gross Sales are not useful if there is no PROFIT. Of course, you can offer a loss leader item to drive traffic to your store or your website, but once the customer is there, you need to have lots of other great deals and impulse items that will bring you profit.

Here are several suggestions. Please share below any great items or tips you may have.


This company offers some great items you can use for Holiday Promotions. Be sure to check out their “Giving Collection.” You can use them for many events, but make plans to incorporate them into an event for Giving Tuesday. I can tell you first hand that we sold hundreds of The Giving Scarf every year. They also offer an infinity giving scarf, a poncho, a Sherpa blanket, and thermal slipper socks to match. Check out this vendor today at

DM Merchandising

This company offers something for everyone. If you want a holiday item, a tech gadget, a beauty item, something for men, for travel, for the kitchen, or for the feet, check out their catalog.

You can find items starting at .90 cents. You will find things to use for free gifts or a BOGO promotion, plus great gift-giving items you can mark up to make good margins this holiday season.  Click Here to go to their website.

Have you ever attended the ASD Show in Las Vegas? Unfortunately, they could not have either show this year, but plans are in place for February 28 – March 3, 2021. At this market, you can find jewelry, clothing, handbags, and other great priced items where you can make margin and also run on promotions. Check out their Online Market at

Plan an Event around Closeouts that you find

Do you have some free weekends on your calendar and trying to come up with an event? I would always ask every rep, call every vendor, and look on their websites to see what they had available on closeout and make up an even around that. You would be amazed at the creativity you can come up with when you see an item.

For example, if you find a great priced bag, you can have a “Stuff it in the Bag Sale,” or if you find a great soft sided cooler, you can have a “Collect it in the Cooler Event.” Be sure to look at all of the daily National Holiday’s, and you can plan fun events around those.  Click Here to see the rest of the October calendar and beyond. Find some fun items to promote and celebrate National Make a Dog’s Day on Oct 22nd or National Make a Difference Day on Oct 24th, or National Chocolate Day on Oct 28th, or National Cat Day on Oct 29th.

Do you get the picture? Customers love “FREE.”

So, giving a gift with purchase or a free gift at the front door is something that will WOW your customers and makes positive deposits into their emotional bank account! Many vendors have great deals in November and December. Be sure to watch your emails and stay in touch with your vendors.

Make sure you have purchased some promotionally priced items and closeout items for all of your events and promotions this holiday season.  Do not just put your regular-priced merchandise on sale for every event.

Remember to set and analyze your Profit Goals, not just your Sales Goals.

Now that your event calendar is full and you have the promotional product to support it, you need to make sure your team is ready.  Next week we will dig into coaching, motivating, and cross-training your associates.

Cris Willis

Cris is a business coach for independent retailers. With 25 years of experience owning and operating a family business, she now guides retail owners to make smarter decisions regarding inventory management, marketing, sales training, product assortment, and more. When not at work, she loves to travel the country with her husband in their motorhome.

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