Holidays and Special Events
The Holidays are not just for fun decor, they are a chance to show how elegant balloons can be.
– Pat and Jim Skistimas
Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called “C-shells.” These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.
What To Order, What Not To Order
- Do not order a ton of balloons that say “HAPPY VALENTINES DAY”! We always used fun themes that made the VD leftover usable all year long. Try some of the “I LOVE YOU,” “YOU’RE SPECIAL,” “FRIENDS FOREVER,” “I’VE GOT THE HOTS FOR YOU,” etc. Another ideas is to use colors other than standard red and white. One year we chose hot pink mylar hearts with black and white dot balloons. Another idea is to use mylar fish with “I’M HOOKED ON YOU.” Leftovers go great for Hawaiian Days, Father’s Day, etc.
- In my shop in South Carolina, my Aunt’s shop in Alabama, and here in Mississippi I had Valentines balloons left over and sold mostly “I Love You” stuff. The classic red heart shaped mylars with white script writing sold best. The younger guys who did not want to tell their girlfriends “I love you” requested Valentines but in my past experience people see Valentines day as the day to say “I Love You.” It really never mattered how much of the cutesy stuff I had (except those Tim Taylor “You have all the right tools” balloons) because most people wanted traditional red and white hearts with “I love you.”
- About 5 years ago we tried buying balloons for Valentines Day with “all-year-round” sales appeal. i.e.; “I Love You,” “#1 Lover,” “You’re So Sweet,” etc. It might be unique to our location, but we found the customers constantly saying, “Haven’t you got a Valentine’s Day balloon?” It was as if the women needed to REMIND their partners of the occasion itself! Sort of a “Put this in your diary next year darling …or else…” I say SELL BALLOONS FOR VALENTINES DAY, not a cute (no occasion) message. How would you feel if the card shop you go to on the 13th has no cards left with “Happy Valentines” inside? I know my wife would appreciate a Valentine’s card, not just a “reminder” that I love her! Since then we have stocked heavily on balloons with the VD message. After all, that is what you wish to promote… AN ANNUAL PURCHASE!
- True, few of us are experts at forecasting sales. But, professionals keep records in order to forecast sales. If you haven’t done this before, start this VD. We know which messages sold well in our area last year, and which ones did not. Which Airwalker they buy, what brand of wine is popular… chocolate is OUT because it melts in our Feb summer heat… % of counter sales to deliveries etc, etc. If your business is growing at X%, then you add that to last year’s sales result. If VD sales are forecast to be down Y% because it’s a Saturday, adjust accordingly.
- Something else we did: Phone the balloon wholesalers on February 6th and ask if they still have VD message stock. They should be holding very little stock by then. But, if they still have large stocks, some of the smart ones will gladly assign them to you on what we call “sale or return” basis. They hope you will sell as much as possible, because if they don’t give ’em to you, they have to hold them over for another 12 months. NOW you won’t get caught with surplus stock, and you can keep accurate records of what messages customers LIKE to buy. (Return unsold stock with a gift basket and a note of thanks)
- Women love to show off how much they’re loved to their office mates. That’s why deliveries to offices are so popular on Valentine’s Day.
- Restaurant owners HATE Valentines because all of the table bookings are for TWO only. Thus, they have to set up lots of little tables which eats up lots of floor space for the amount of meals served, leading to low income per sq. ft. (compared to big tables and large parties).
- Talk to some of the restaurants and offer to deliver balloon arrangements to be at the tables. Just have the reservations staff make the arrangements for the tables and then add “Would you like a lovers balloon arrangement? We can do all the work and you can choose from $X, $Y or $Z. You can pay a small commission and add extra cash to your pocket and a neat service for the eating establishment.
- Because there will be lots of table bookings, the commission per table can be small. We have a restaurant that is setting 60 tables for the 14th of Feb. Their commission of $3 per table is welcomed for simply asking a question and making one phone call to us. We hope to get about 15-20 tables from them. Any more is a bonus! And remember that you only send the van to one drop point for these 20 bouquets.
- There will be more table bookings than usual in each restaurant, but only 2 per table. Remember the tables are small so the arrangements need to be TALL with a small base/weight. Bingo – you get bottles of Champagne or white wine from the restauranteur and use them as the base. He then makes a little more on each bottle of wine. Order the required number of bottles beforehand. With a computer, a color printer and self-adhesive paper, you can make unique, personalized labels for the bottles. Ask that the wine waiters DO NOT detach balloons from the wine bottle (California Law). Pour with balloons attached. They then keep the bottle as a momento.
- In Michigan, it would be OK to sell the restaurant the balloons and tie them to THEIR BOTTLES OF CHAMPAGNE. If you do it the other way you may get a very unwelcome visit from the BATF and your state liquor commission. Each state has different laws so CHECK BEFORE DOING ANYTHING WHEN IT COMES TO ALCOHOL!
- Here’s a suggestion to help increase Valentine’s Day sales by encouraging deliveries (especially to offices and schools) on Friday Feb 13 1998…
- Contact a local radio station and arrange to sponsor a “Lucky Friday the 13th” promotion.
- The station announces chances for listeners (13th caller, etc.) to win free “Lucky 13 Bouquets” and qualify for a grand prize drawing.
- The grand prize winner wins a “Lucky 13 Bouquet” to be delivered personally by an on-the-air radio “star” or morning drive announce team.
- The station should agree to promote the contest throughout their day and mention your company name on every promotion and every time they give away a bouquet.
- You should agree to provide the bouquets at no charge to the station and sign the delivery cards “Compliments of your friends at WXYZ and (your company name).”
- Additional notes: To maximize the benefits of this campaign for your company and for the radio station, agree to sponsor the contest exclusively with one station, and offer it first to the most popular station in your market. The station should also agree that yours will be the only balloon company in the promotion. You may wish to include non-competing products, such as gift certificates or candy, in the “Lucky 13 Bouquet,” but you should carefully preserve the identity of the promotion for *your* business.
- We have rented a kiosk for Valentine’s Day in past years, so here are a few ideas and experiences:
- We used short lengths of heavy chain and tied balloons to the chain. These were placed on floor around the kiosk. Each chain could hold about 50 foil balloons. Keep the ribbons longer, tie them to the chain, then attach foils to the ribbons. We kept similar styles of balloons on each chain (a romantic chain, friendly chain, masculine, etc.) When selling, just cut off ribbon near the chain. Also arrange balloons in an umbrella shape and use clips or clothes pins to bundle the balloons together near their necks. (This helps prevent the potential tangling problem, however, it may not be necessary since you are indoors).
- You’re paying quite a bit for the kiosk rental, so talk to the mall about using an empty storefront to keep extra supplies, tanks, etc. We placed any chains of leftover foil balloons in the store room at night. (Better safe than sorry). Negotiate for free rental of the store room, or at minimal charge, or maybe you can trade and decorate a store window instead.
- If you are in a mall, you will find lots of moms with kids in strollers, so carry anything Winnie the Pooh. We sold a lot of the 14″ air-filled foils of Winnie, Tigger, etc., as well as 18″ rounds, and a few of the larger Pooh shapes. You can carry other styles, but really the Pooh characters are your safest bet. You might want to consider vending Valentine latex as well. We sold a lot of 16″/18″ clear with V-Day print and with an 11″ Valentines latex inside.
- Also keep base designs simple, profitable. Most of our customers wanted balloons tied onto plush or chocolate. Gift baskets did not sell very well. One item we sold quite a bit of was a valentines print gift/tote bag with complementary tissue and big hand tied bow attached. We made these up ahead of time; they were a grab and go item. People loved the idea of placing their just bought gifts in one these, and of course we suggested a few balloons to attach.
- For our Valentine’s Day kiosk, we use large sand weights with 50 balloon ribbons tied to them. We wrap the ribbons around the weight and pre-make them far in advance. When we are ready to inflate, we simply unroll the ribbons and loop the weight over the valve, inflate the mylar and let the helium carry the balloon out of the way. When you are done with 50, simply un-loop the weight. We have better luck mixing the balloons up instead of categorizing them. The weighted groupings are placed around the kiosk as well as on top of the kiosk. We’ve done one solid grouping of Happy Valentine’s Day and one of I Love You for the traditionalists.
- I’ll never do a kiosk again! We offered beautiful balloon arrangements and deliveries, but people were really hanging on tight to their money and were buying the under $10 items. We made these great arrangements for display but didn’t sell one! Balloon wrap went over BIG though. We got in to the mall to find that the mall had let another balloon kiosk in directly above us. While I had asked if they had anyone else doing balloons, it was not in the contract so we just dealt with it. We set up on February 8th, planning to sell all week long, only to find out the mall wouldn’t let us do balloon wrapping or sell plush unless we paid The Collectible Teddy Bear Store $500 to do so for the week. We didn’t even have $500 in plush, but since we spent a lot on V-day inventory, we had to sell it! Since the mall didn’t have that in our contract, I asked the mall to compensate us and they agreed, but only after we lost sales from Sunday through Thursday!
- Weekend Valentines kill deliveries, so focus on a different target market. Malls, retailers of lingerie, jewelry, candy, restaurants, card shops, night clubs, bars, etc. You get to do all of this work in the couple of weeks leading up to Valentines. You don’t have to hire casuals, there are no van rentals, and all of it is air filled balloons. Target the restaurants because that is where all the young lovers will be!
- One suggestion to boost weekend Valentine’s Day sales would be to contact your local indoor mall(s). Fax, or better yet, drop by a good 8×10 picture of your best walk-thru heart and offer to make one to put at the entrance of EVERY STORE in the mall a week before Valentine’s Day. What a wonderful promotional gimmick for the mall when they advertise their “Walkway of Love” for their customers to enjoy as they shop for that special Valentine’s Day gift.We are doing this with one mall and offered a lower rate per heart as their percentage of sales of the hearts went up, i.e., one price if 25% of the stores purchased the heart, a little lower price if 50% of stores participated, even lower if 75% participated and “rock bottom” (which is actually just 10 C-shells below our regular price) if 100% of their stores ordered the hearts. The mall is doing all our selling for us and after only one week since we talked with the mall, we already have 25% of the stores participating!
We build all our own heart frames so the frames are costing us very, very little. We are making inexpensive bases out of 4×8 sheets of white counter-top material we buy at Home Depot and they cut into 18″x18″ squares for us. We are then offering these frames and bases to the stores for purchase after the promotion with a promise of a 10% discount on their heart next year. In this way, we don’t have to store the frames and bases. By making the frames and bases yourself, you can offer your hearts to the stores at a range of 150-200 C-shells and still make tons of $$$$$ on each one.
Since the promotion only lasts about a week, there will be very little, if any, maintenance, but I’d suggest offering maintenance for a fee, just in case some love-struck teenagers decide to go on a popping spree.
The nicest thing about this promotion is that it happens a week or 10 days BEFORE Valentine’s Day which still leaves VD open to make more $$$$. However, with anywhere from 50-200 stores in one mall, you may want to just sit back and relax on Valentine’s Day this year.
- Doing a 4th of July Parade? Don’t bother with a float, make columns of helium filled balloons which when put together would make a flag, only don’t assemble together, just have each of your “marchers” carry the columns side by side! You could make it huge. Just look at some old “images” magazines for the recipe.