“Graduation is a huge milestone for students and parents alike, and retailers are ready to help make it even more memorable,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay was quoted as saying in an NRF press release last spring. The article went on to state that graduation spending was expected to reach $5.2 billion for high school and college grads.

That is of course great news. The not-so-great news for shopkeepers is that cash and greeting cards are the most popular gifts. But fortunately not everyone likes to give money, so there are opportunities beyond graduation cards for savvy retailers.

Gift cards are also among the top items that students like to receive to celebrate their graduation. If your store offers products that appeal to a younger demographic, you might want to promote the idea of a store gift card as a graduation gift. Be sure to suggest this on social media – and you might want to offer a promotion of a free graduation card with any $25 or greater gift card purchase.

If your shop is in a university town, like ours, see if you can encourage the friends and family of incoming freshmen from other communities to buy a gift card to your shop. You could go together with stores and restaurants in your shopping area to promote a gift card program with wider appeal – we do this for Monroe Street through a program called InstaGift.

Some of our most popular graduation gifts are locally themed items that will either remind a student of home (“Someone in Wisconsin Loves You”) as they leave for college, or bring back memories of their college years (“Go Badgers!”) as they head out into the work world.

Many high school grads will be moving into a dorm room, and college grads may be setting up a first apartment. Mugs, wall art, glassware, desk accessories and picture frames are all good options. And don’t forget that 8th graders also graduate, as do some preschoolers. There are lots of graduation opportunities for creative retailers!

Happy Retailing,


Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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