I was charmed by this vintage postcard, which shows Lobster King Harry Hackney with his Lobster Waitresses in their prize-winning costumes for the Atlantic City Beauty Pageant Parade in about 1950.  You can imagine the buzz in the kitchen as word got out to Harry’s staff that they were going to compete dressed as lobsters.  But they certainly look happy that they won!

Never underestimate the power of a contest to get your staff excited.  Although we pride ourselves on always having creative window displays, we find that a contest does wonders for getting our employees to think outside the box. Design Ideas, one of our more inventive suppliers, hosts an annual contest using GelGems. They come up with a theme and provide some of the necessary materials.  The store then e-mails them a JPEG of its entry in order to be considered in the competition. The range of entries is usually quite impressive, and really showcases what you can do with GelGems.  You can vote for this year’s winner from the finalists (unfortunately Orange Tree Imports is not among them!) on the Design Ideas web site.  You will need to register as a “GelManiac” to log in. http://www.gelgems.com/MyGelGems/judge.asp

For another example of a contest sponsored by a supplier, take a look at this one from L’Erbolario. The results are all different – and all wonderful.  As one of the retailers noted, their sales of the line increased significantly after putting special effort into featuring these products in a special window display. http://www.bioforceusa.com/LERBO%20CONTEST%20WEB%20PAGE.htm

The Gift and Home Channel sponsored a Halloween decorating contest last fall, and the winner was a store in New Jersey called Baby Boom.  You can view a segment about their creative window designs, including a Valentine’s Day contest involving their customers, by clicking on this link: http://www.giftandhomechannel.com/channel/vod/256/

They tied this promotion in with a fundraiser for a local nursery school, which is a great way to create goodwill in the community.

We were recently approached by Jazz at Five, a local outdoor music series, to do a window for their competition on the theme of “Improvisation.” What a perfect way to get lots of exposure for their concerts, and to involve the retailers in their efforts to bring visitors to the downtown area.

If you are part of a neighborhood shopping district, why not create a little retail excitement by hosting a window display contest of your own? You could either have the shopkeepers themselves do the windows, or invite guest artists. Invite the public to vote for their favorite, either in person or online.  It’s fun to do something different now and then, even if it doesn’t involve dressing in a lobster suit.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

To learn more about creating retail excitement through promotions, read Chapter 10 of my book, Specialty Shop Retailing: Everything You Need to Know to Run Your Own Store, available (autographed!) through our web site, www.orangetreeimports.com, or from your local independent bookseller, either in person or online through Indie Bound at http://indiebound.org