Strategies for success
the holidays and beyond
Maxine Burton, of burton +
BURTON, offers ideas to boost your sales and your connection
As 2010 comes to a close, many of you are looking ahead to 2011
and planning for the major floral holidays. To find out the best
ways to plan for the holidays, we turned to one of our
industry’s top marketing and trend experts, Maxine Burton,
president, COO and founder of burton + BURTON, a leading
supplier of balloons and coordinating gift products. In an
interview with Editor-in-Chief Cynthia McGowan, Mrs. Burton
shared her strategies for successful planning, product selection
and merchandising for the holidays as well as for everyday
SFR: When should retailers
start ordering for the major holidays?
MB: It is important to
begin planning for the major holiday selling seasons as soon as
possible. Many retailers start planning for next year’s holiday
as soon as this year’s holiday season has ended. This allows
them to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work while the
season is still fresh in their minds. Planning this far in
advance is not always possible for everyone, but it does allow
the retailer to more easily build on whatever was successful
that season and, hopefully, create a better plan for the
We mail our catalogs approximately four to six months before
each holiday season. We strongly urge our customers to review
these catalogs immediately and place their orders early to
ensure that their choices are readily available. burton + BURTON
works hard to ensure that inventories remain plentiful well into
each selling season, but it is not always possible to accurately
forecast demand, especially when there are challenges in the
economy. My best advice is to plan ahead, determine your needs,
and order as early as is practical for your business.
Early ordering also allows you to carefully plan your seasonal
themes and displays well in advance of the season. burton +
BURTON prides itself not only on our quality products but also
on our ability to make these items visually appealing—on their
own, in groups or in a series—using any number of visual design
techniques to market the merchandise.
maxine's seven steps
for holiday success
Start planning for major holidays at least six
months in advance.
Conduct a sales review at the end of each selling
season to help plan for next year.
Pay attention to all forms of media as well as
local, national and global events.
Know the trends; for 2011, top consumer trends
include personalization, nostalgia and the craft
Listen to your customers; offer products that meet
their particular needs.
Create displays that WOW your customers.
Work with vendors that can support you.
SFR: What is the best way
for mass-market buyers to stay ahead of consumer trends,
especially when they’re ordering in advance?
MB: I believe that you can
predict trends if you pay special attention to the world around
you. Retailers should constantly keep up with what is going on
in the world—the economy, pop culture, fashion, music, politics,
athletics, local community activities and national events all
contribute significantly to style, trends, color and design. For
example, when you know what teams are going to the playoffs,
make sure to have the appropriate sports-related items,
including balloons, up and ready to go to meet that demand.
Global events also play a significant role in predicting trends.
Middle Eastern and European trends do affect the American market
and are sometimes good indicators of what might be coming our
way. Retailers must also pay special attention to international
events because they so heavily influence our everyday lives. An
example of this is the military uniform influence seen in
fashion design (military-style hats, uniform jackets, etc.)
International awareness of events in the Middle East also has
led to an increase in the use of traditional Middle Eastern
patterns and colors in many areas of design.
SFR: How should they get
MB: Information comes to us in many forms—television, movies,
news programming, magazines, books, etc. Pay attention to your
environment. It is also helpful to pay attention to burton +
BURTON catalogs. We are constantly traveling, taking note of the
current trends and making sure that we have the products that
SFR: What product trends
are you seeing for the major holidays next year?
MB: Personalization is
still very popular—monogramming everyday items is a very hot
trend and one that will continue for the foreseeable future.
Nostalgia is also strong. With the economy continuing to be a
challenge, items that bring hearth, home and family to mind—the
things that are most important to us all—are very popular. Items
with a nostalgic theme such as glitter and luster glazes; polka
dots, stripes and grosgrain; craft-style items such as
hand-painted beads on curly wires, buttons, rickrack and
hand-lettering; and items with plastic, metal and wood accents
are trending very strong right now.
SFR: How can retailers
make sure they’re offering the right products for their customer
MB: I spend a lot of time
in our showrooms just listening to our customers. Retailers need
to do the same thing. Retailers must also try to make a
statement with their displays—use display products liberally.
Don’t take two or three items and try to build a whole display
from them; offer a series of similar products in an innovative
display, or go deep with a single product or two, emphasizing
color, form, etc. Do one or the other, and make it all flow
together. Avoid a lot of mismatching in your store—this confuses
the eye and does not create excitement. You want your customers
to walk into your store, see a dazzling display and say, “Wow!”
SFR: Are balloons another
good way to get customers’ attention?
MB: Definitely. A display should be built from the floor to the
ceiling, and balloons are an excellent way to pull the
customer’s eye up. They can easily be customized toward a
specific theme, color, event, holiday, etc., and everyone loves
them. Balloons add punch and excitement to any display, if they
are used correctly.
SFR: How would you sum up
your tips for merchandising for the major holidays?
MB: Build impactful,
appealing displays; offer the right product mix; and make sure
you are buying from a trusted vendor that is able to fully
support you and your goals. Also plan ahead, and create a
written plan of action; you are much more apt to follow the plan
if it is something tangible that you can hold in your hand.
SFR: How are you feeling
about the economy now and in the future? Are you optimistic
about our industry?
MB: We are very
optimistic. We have been confident all along that the gift
industry would weather this financial storm and have seen a
positive change in the last six months. Customers are buying
very conservatively and carefully, and rightfully so, but as we
all know, the gift industry is all about making people happy. If
retailers have the right product, customers are going to buy.
I also think it is critically important that retailers offer
their customers quality customer service—the shopping experience
is more stressful now than it used to be, with belts being
tightened around our country. Customers who feel welcome and
valued when they visit your store, and who are remembered when
they return, are the kind of customers who buy ... and buy