Sarah Artz, the owner of Good Day Shop, is one of our dynamic young retail neighbors on Monroe Street in Madison, WI. She not only runs a creative studio and retail business, but also produces pop-up event experiences, and develops and sells custom products online. She describes herself as “a connector, doer, why-asker and big idea thinker.”  Sarah has had success this year expanding into the corporate market, and has generously offered to share her insights in this guest blog post:

Retailers are often looking for additional revenue streams that complement their mission and brand. However, during the pandemic, creating projects and initiatives that guarantee a set amount of income has been more than critical to staying afloat with stunted operations and a continually shifting and uncertain market.   

One avenue shop owners are finding a niche in is corporate gifting. While corporate gift programs were maybe once seen as more of a fruit basket or promotional tchotchke-type product, the surge of folks hyper focused on supporting local has paved the way for specialty shops to step in and offer curated products that are unique and meaningful.  

During Wisconsin’s shelter-in-place, our shop started getting inquiries from other small businesses looking for local, custom gifts for their clients as a way to continue building relationships and extending their brand experience when they weren’t able to connect face-to-face. They were looking for experiential and memorable gifts that would leave a lasting impression and keep their business top of mind.

They were also inquiring about gifts for their employees. With employees working remotely, it’s imperative to find ways to keep them engaged and feeling connected to the company from home. From sending interactive DIY-kit based gifts or curated home-office pick-me-ups, these packages are becoming a replacement for in-office team building activities, special occasion celebrations and achievement acknowledgements, especially when paired with a virtual activity.

Corporate gift clients appreciate the help in coming up with creative concepts and specialty shops often have the capacity or connections to take the projects to the next level with extra special details like hand written notes or handmade branded packaging. At our shop, we offer fulfillment services as well, which has been a big selling point for busy businesses that don’t have the experience or capacity to figure out how to source, pack and ship the items safely and easily.

For retailers, a corporate gift box project can be a dream if you’re able to keep planning and fulfillment work efficient. A bulk order of 20, 50 or 100 custom curated gifts allows you to better predict revenue, bulk buy with better margins and test out new products you might not normally carry. That one project, if executed well, can lead to subsequent projects and that one relationship, if nurtured, can lead to meaningful referrals to more small businesses.

If you’re considering starting a corporate gifting program, start by thinking about what your niche is. In other words, with a lot of other options out there, what will be special about your offering? Is it your curation, your efficiency in fulfillment, uniqueness of products or maybe your customization options?

Also consider how your operations will be affected. What kind of staffing and space adjustments will you need to make to accommodate larger bulk orders? Who from your supplier list can be your trusted go-tos for sourcing, especially if you want to create custom items? How will all of this change during slow and busy times of the year?

I highly recommend starting the program as a pilot where you test your concept with one or two clients before formally launching. This will help you work out a lot of the kinks before you formalize it into something permanent and promote-able. It also means you don’t have to commit to anything permanent until you really know you like doing this kind of work and the return is worth your time and effort.

Corporate gifting programs aren’t new, but just like everything else we’re experiencing right now, they’re taking on new forms. If approached creatively and nimbly enough that you can continue to adapt it as the world evolves into what will be our “new normal,” this revenue stream bring you the personal and business diversification your shop needs to survive this uncertain time. 

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing these great ideas!

Happy Retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

Photo by Nikki Hansen