Trick or Treat: Six strategies to help hype Halloween
  By Teresa P. Lanker

     Halloween is a blossoming holiday among retailers. Adults seem to have grasped this formerly kids-only holiday and made it their own. Check out the costume aisles at area discount stores, and you’ll find as many adult costumes as children’s. Halloween decorations, both cute and chic, are also in heavy supply in all sorts of retailers, from discount stores to department stores.

     So how can you capitalize on this “nonflower holiday”? With Halloween purchases being largely impulse, chances are you’ll need both tricks and treats! Use “tricks” to attract customers to your flower shop, and then provide treats so they’re glad they came.

     Stock the store with fun and festive merchandise, display it artfully, and plan alluring promotions; impulse sales will follow. Whether you approach Halloween with a single promotion or a month-long series of events, the following sampler of “trick-and-treat” ideas can bewitch your customers.
1. Trick: Kick off a “Halloween Happening” or a “Fall Festival” event for a day, a weekend or an entire month. Include a “clear the decks” pre-Christmas sidewalk sale, with special value coupons on Halloween and autumn merchandise for regular customers.  
Treat: Plan a schedule of classes and demonstrations featuring shop employees and/or local artisans. Try topics such as cooking with pumpkin; aromatherapy; how to make a seasonal fruit, gourmet or gift basket; and even artful pumpkin carving (be sure to sell the kits!). Highlight a line of Halloween giftware with an artist appearance and signing.  
2. Trick: Offer “Mix-and-Match Madness” all month long. Give customers choices among popular Halloween and fall decorating items in any combination for one special price. Try bundled pumpkins, cornstalks and hay bales in any mix-and-match combination at three for $10. Create similar specials with items ranging from mum plants, bunches of orange carnations, and “spider” mums to scary carnivorous flowers and plants such as pitcher plants (either Sarracenia or Nepenthes), Venus’s-flytraps and so on.  
Treat: Bump up sales with a free gift for purchases more than a selected dollar value. Keep the gift in line with the fall feeling, perhaps a candy-corn-filled bud vase with a water-tubed flower on top.  
3. Trick: Help customers “Fall in Love” with an in-store fall and winter wedding show featuring beautiful fresh flowers and other wedding finery. Clear a section of the sales floor, set up a theater-style area of chairs and present, “Flowers Without Fear: Spook-Free Lessons on How to Plan Your Wedding Flowers.” Offer two or three sessions on a single day or a couple of evening sessions during a weeklong event.  
Treat: Provide autumn-inspired refreshments such as pumpkin bars and warm apple cider. Or simplify the food function by inviting local caterers to bring in samples from their wedding menus along with company brochures. Offer a special promotion on Halloween inventory for wedding guests only.  
4. Trick: Sponsor an autumn home-and-garden tour featuring the homes of special clients. Decorate each home with fresh and permanent custom floral enhancements accessorized with Halloween or other autumn giftware. Have a staff member serve as host or hostess at each home. Have your flower shop be the final stop on the tour, and be sure to prominently feature displays of the shop merchandise shown in each home. Coordinate the event to benefit a local charity.  
Treat: Hire musicians to circulate through the shop and, perhaps, the homes as well, providing live music as they stroll. Include a discount coupon for merchandise in your shop on each tour ticket stub, with a limited-time offer on Halloween merchandise.  
5. Trick: Host a contest with an autumn theme. A costume contest is the obvious choice, but that may attract only those who like to dress up. For something different, consider a scarecrow decorating contest, a fall photography contest or a pumpkin pie baking contest followed by a pie eating contest.  
Treat: Use floral products as prizes for contest participants. Recognize everyone as a winner with a single flower and ribbon.  
6. Trick: Celebrate the season with a special “Kids’ Day” event. Combine concepts and include contests, kids’ classes, entertainment and refreshments. Partner with other area merchants for an afternoon of trick-or-treating along several storefronts.  
Treat: Give participants special kids-only coupons for exclusive deals on balloons, plush and, of course, flowers. Provide entertainment by kids for kids at scheduled intervals throughout the day. This guarantees an audience of proud parents and grandparents, so be sure there are plenty of adult-friendly Halloween incentives available, too.  


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