We went to get our Christmas tree from our favorite tree farm on the outskirts of town a few days ago.  The owner, Eric Jensen, is trying to make up for the days that were lost when 17” of snow fell here in Madison, WI in less than 24 hours — followed by a day of sub-zero wind chill temperatures.  (Not great circumstances for gift retailing either!)

Eric asked me whether I thought he should take advantage of a last minute promotion being offered by the local TV station to run a commercial discounting the price of all remaining trees.

As I stood mulling over Eric’s question, I enjoyed the fragrance of dozens of pine trees in his barn, and I watched out the window as families got their special tree ready to take home for the holidays. It occurred to me that the actual tree was really only a small part of what I got from Eric every Christmas.

Yes, I could have bought a 6’ pine for less money in the lot by the gas station.  That would have taken less time, too. But I would have missed the drive in the countryside, past fields covered with mounds of white snow.  I would have missed the handmade crafts that Eric’s wife sells in the barn.  And I would have missed supporting a local farmer.

So my advice to Eric was to go ahead and run the commercials, if he wanted, but to focus on selling himself, and the experience of getting a tree directly from his farm, rather than price.  It’s the same advice I would give any of my fellow retailers.

Katy Schalles is our neighbor on Monroe Street in Madison.  She is the owner of Katy’s American Indian Arts, and Katy knows more about native American crafts that anyone else in our area. She knows that people come to her store because she is both knowledgeable and very good at customer service.  Her name is on the sign, and in the ads, because people would rather buy from Katy than from some anonymous mega-retailer.  Wouldn’t you?

Take a look at your marketing message, and what it says about your store. If your pride in what you do, and your special personality, are not reflected in your advertising, now is a good time to sell yourself. It’s what makes your store unique.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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