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Alternative holidays to boost your sales in 2016

Alternative holidays to boost your sales in 2016

When you’re planning your sales calendar for the new year, certain days make for obvious targets: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Black Friday. It doesn’t take an MBA to see why holidays like these account for a significant chunk of most retailers’ marketing budgets—not to mention their annual sales.

As consumer spending around major holidays increases and competition grows, small and medium-sized businesses often get overlooked, while giants like Amazon and Walmart rake in the lion’s share of sales. Niche retailers may find ways of competing during established shopping seasons, but with literally hundreds of other offbeat and underserved events out there, why focus all your efforts on peak season when opportunities exist to stand out on your own?

Instead of going after obvious holidays like Easter and Halloween, consider taking a different angle. Cash in on the popularity of sporting events like the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Playoffs, rally around awareness campaigns like Fair Trade Month and World Wildlife Day, or hook into quirky local celebrations your customers know and love.

We’ve compiled a short list of alternative holidays and events to consider as you plan for 2016. Obviously, the relevance of these dates will vary based on your industry and target demographic, but with 366 (!) days in the year, there’s no shortage of days (or ways) to get creative and make 2016 a prosperous one for your business.


Leap Year, February 29

After a four-year hiatus, February 29th is back. Women will propose to their boyfriends, middle-aged leaplings will celebrate their 11th and 12th birthdays, and salaried employees will essentially work for free.

What does it mean for your store? It means one extra day to increase your annual revenue—and a unique opportunity for a sales campaign.

The possibilities for creative leap year promotions are endless. In 2012, Zappos celebrated by offering its customers a four-year return policy for purchases made on February 29th. Ikea marked the occasion by discounting 229 of its products by 29 percent. And Papa John’s launched its Perfect Pan Pizza with the suitably cheesy tagline: “One Giant Leap for Pankind.”

Despite these examples—and perhaps because of its infrequency—February 29th is one of the few days on the calendar that hasn’t been done to death by marketers. If you can come up with a creative and enticing way of celebrating the leap year, you could have a winning campaign on your hands.


Tax Season, March and April

When you think of tax season, the first thing that springs to mind may not be “retail marketing opportunity," but this spring, 8 in 10 tax-filing Americans will receive a cheque from the federal government averaging $2,800. Think they’re going to deposit that entire amount into a savings account and sit on it until they retire? Heck no.

According to last year’s National Retail Federation’s Tax Survey, 10.7 percent of refund-receiving consumers plan to splurge on a major purchase, while 12.8 percent plan to spend their refund on a vacation. That might not seem like a lot (especially compared to the 37.7 percent of respondents who plan to do the "responsible" thing and pay down their debt) but as eMarketer points out, even that small slice of tax-refund pie adds up to more than annual back-to-school and back-to-college spending combined.

Tax season is the time to promote those indulgent items your customers have put off buying all year because of New Year’s resolutions and Frugal February. Consider sending personalized reminder emails to let wishlist users know that the products they’ve been lusting after are still available, and at a discount to boot.

Enticing shoppers to buy in April—when they’ve got money to burn—is bound to be more successful than in January, when everyone is still dealing with the fallout of their holiday excesses.


Earth Day, April 22

Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has become a day for people to consider their impact on the planet, lobby governments for action on environmental issues, and switch the lights off in their homes. For retailers who seize the opportunity, it’s also a day to emphasize the eco-friendliness of their business practices and product offerings.

Even if you’re not selling reusable grocery bags, organic cosmetics, or solar-powered clocks, chances are good you have products in your inventory that can be positioned to appeal to Earth Day buyers. Sell vintage clothing? Talk about the advantages of buying used versus new. Lighting? Write a plug for energy-saving bulbs. Bicycles? Position them for the person who wants to walk more and drive less.

Earth Day is also a golden (green?) opportunity to win long-term, environmentally-minded customers. With two-thirds of participants in a recent Nielsen study saying they prefer to buy products from sustainable sources over conventional products, and who will buy repeatedly from a company if they know it’s mindful of its environmental impact, building your reputation as a “green” retailer is as lucrative as it is environmentally responsible.


Singles Day, November 11

Last year’s Cyber Monday sales exceeded $3 billion in the U.S., making it America’s biggest ecommerce sales day ever. That’s nothing compared to the record set three weeks earlier by a company most North Americans have never heard of, Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, which sold an incredible $14.3 billion on Singles Day.

Singles Day is more or less an Anti-Valentine’s Day for those living the single life. Though it has been celebrated in China for more than 20 years, the ecommerce holiday fails to register in most North American diaries—but not because there isn’t a market for it.

In fact, if the popularity of Anti-Valentine’s Day cards and parties is any indicator, there’s as much of an appetite for self-indulgent online purchases as there is for romantic, candlelit dinners. Plus, with singles now outnumbering married people in North America, running a promotion that celebrates bachelors and bachelorettes makes as much sense as one that celebrates couples.


A winter holiday of your choosing, December

People celebrate a lot of winter holidays besides Christmas. There’s Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Krampusnacht, St. Lucia’s day. And for the non-conformists, skeptics and Seinfeld fans, there’s Festivus.

There’s also a growing trend among socially conscious retailers to eschew the frenzied consumerism of the holidays in favour of a more charitable alternative. Last year, UK fashion chain Fat Face celebrated “Thanks For Giving Day” by donating instead of discounting, while fair trade shop Traidcraft asked shoppers to keep calm and ignore the Black Friday hysteria with its #JustFriday campaign.

By focusing your marketing on something other than beautifully-wrapped gifts under an evergreen tree, you’ll stand out amid the sea of blaring “40% OFF! BUY NOW” and “GET HER SOMETHING SHE’LL LOVE” emails that pile up in consumers’ inboxes. Even if they don’t buy from you, at least they probably won’t hit “Unsubscribe.”


Focus on your customers

Whatever holidays you target and however you target them, remember that at the end of the day it’s about crafting a message that resonates with your customers. By choosing to capitalize on alternative holidays and being loud when the competition has gone silent, you’ll have a better chance of getting them to listen—but to really succeed in 2016, you’ll need to know what they care about and what they want to hear.

Are you planning to capitalize on any unconventional holidays this year, or will you be keeping it mainstream? Share your thoughts in the comments. below

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