Christmas is just two months away, so it’s time to make a list — and check it twice — so that you can succeed in creating some special seasonal spirit for your customers.  Although shopping in December can be stressful, the original touches that independent businesses and local shopping areas add to the season often become cherished holiday memories.

Decorating your shop and your street to set the mood is a good place to start.  On our street in Madison, Wisconsin, we band together to put fresh greenery and red bows on our black lamp posts. (Mother Nature often contributes the snow required to complete the holiday setting.)  Other areas with larger budgets are able to add special lighting, and there are now low-energy LED versions that address your environmental concerns.  Snowflakes and other non-sectarian design choices will broaden the appeal of your seasonal decor, and allow you to leave it up longer.

Don’t forget the evocative nature of the scents and sounds of the season as you plan your shop’s interior decorations.  Keep the fragrance light, in deference to those with allergies — but consider using potpourri, or a pine-scented candle, to add some aroma your store. We love Frasier Fir from The Thymes, and find that the scent isn’t overpowering.  We try for the same low-key effect with our holiday background music.  All the songs are instrumental, and our iPod is set to alternate Christmas songs with selections that are not seasonal.

Food is also an important aspect of the holiday spirit, and can be as simple as having a bowl of complimentary candy canes at the checkout.  Coffee or hot spiced cider, together with cookies or fruit and nuts, add a nice touch to special events such as a holiday open house.  If you are allowed to serve alcohol at private parties, you will undoubtedly find that most customers appreciate being offering a glass of wine. You might check with a local wine shop to see if they can provide a free tasting sponsored by one of their suppliers.

Special events during the holiday season range from a community tree lighting ceremony, holiday music by strolling carolers, or breakfast with Santa and perhaps also Mrs. Claus.*  You could also have horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday storytelling, or a traditional chestnut roaster.  Don’t forget to have a door prizes drawing and perhaps even a small gift for every participant.

Some of these traditional seasonal touches are not specifically related to Christmas, and will appeal even to those who are not celebrating the holiday.  But in creating special events it is important to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone wants to be part of the Christmas festivities. Whatever special events you plan, take care to make sure that all your customers feel welcome.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder