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Get Your Christmas Shuffle On . . . Ramping up the holiday planning

xmas 2We’re now mid-way into October and this means one thing – time to ramp up the Christmas planning.

The festive season is the largest spending event of the year, and for many retailers, sales can account for over thirty percent of annual revenue.

Planning ahead is essential to making the most of holiday sales. Below, we sought some sage advice from Vend blogger and retail expert, Francesca Nicasio.

1. Plan your holiday displays

window imageMake sure your displays (i.e., window and in-store displays, shop layouts) can grab attention and entice people to buy.  Start planning what you’ll showcase in your store and craft the stories that you’ll tell through your displays.

From a logistical standpoint, see to it that you have the materials to set up stunning displays. These include:

Lights – Invest in good lighting that makes your displays pop. If possible, use white lights to generate interest.

Props – Do away with generic props and get yourself something holiday-specific. As Retail Doctor Bob Phibbs notes, if your store looks the same on December 15th as it did on September 15th, you’ll probably settle for crumbs when you could’ve had the entire season.

xmas 3Signage – “Sale” signs are pretty standard, and you should definitely have them in your signage mix.  But be sure to throw in unique messages and signs to get the attention of holiday shoppers.

Here’s a great example: In last year’s expert webinar, Bob showed us how a retailer cleverly created a sign to encourage impulse buys during the holiday season. The sign read “The gift you forgot!” and it successfully drove sales for the merchant.

2. Make your website holiday-centric

xmas 4See to it that your website is holiday-centric. For instance, you may want to plan the Christmas-themed banners that you’ll display. And during the holidays, many retailers create special gift sections or categories such as “For Her” or “Gifts under $50”. Consider doing the same thing on your website.

3. Hire seasonal staff for the rush

If you’re hiring additional staff this season, now is the time to start looking. Get the word out by posting on job boards, re-hiring previous employees, and asking for referrals.

Aside from that, see if you can implement more creative hiring tactics. Jennifer Martin of Zest Business Consulting, advises retailers to go beyond traditional hiring methods and be more proactive with finding the right staff.

“If you have a few key employees and you want to find others just like them, then learn about them just like you would with defining your ideal clients,” she says. “Find out what their hobbies are, where they spend their down time, and what they do for fun. If you find that a number of your ideal workers take yoga, then guess where you’ll find more people like them? Yup, at yoga classes.”

xmas 54. Make sure you have enough store supplies

The holidays will be hectic and running out of supplies when the Christmas season is in full swing could spell disaster. Prepare those supplies now, so you won’t have to worry about them later on. Here are a few items you may want to stock up on:

  • Cash desk supplies, including bags, pens, till tape, staplers, hold tags, etc.
  • Payment terminal paper
  • Receipt paper
  • Gift cards
  • Gift boxes
  • Hangers
  • Cleaning supplies

xmas 65. Tighten up security

The holidays bring more traffic, but this could also mean more opportunities for theft. Get your loss prevention ducks in a row well before the Christmas season picks up. Here are a few friendly reminders:

Set the right user permissions – Most modern point-of-sale systems allow you to set user permissions to enable or restrict staff members from doing certain tasks. Check with your POS solution provider and see how you can update permissions in your store.

Review your user permissions to make sure you know exactly what your staff can see and do with your POS. A big mistake many retailers make is applying the same permissions for all users.

You should also be vigilant when it comes to who can process voided sales, as this is a very easy way to steal stock.

For further Christmas tips and retail inspiration, advice and information, visit



Oct 16 2017

Modern-day Scent . . . Wellington’s Sweet Escape

sweet escape 5Melanie Maddock doesn’t just ‘make’ soaps, she ‘creates’ them. With a background in artistry, design and massage therapy, the Wellingtonian chose to get inventive with her own lip and aromatherapy balms nine years ago – from there business has flourished.

“I have a real affinity for beautiful products and scents and the idea of being environmentally-conscious resonates with me. As a massage therapist I wanted to deliver my clients products that were unique, truly high-quality and essentially good for them,” she explains. “I sought early inspiration during travel, in both Australia and Canada – seeking, trying and buying some beautifully crafted products, and I got a real feel sweet escape 2for what I wanted to produce for my clients back home in New Zealand.”

The finished product is not the only thing that excites Maddock, the behind-the-scenes work is something she thrives on.

“In the beginning before I purchased anything – cocoa butter, essential oils, Epsom salts – I researched. I spent hundreds of hours researching an ingredient, its uses, what it aids, where it’s grown or produced – what it partners well with,” she explains. “The learning and exploration into creating a well-rounded soap sweet escape 3or body tonic is continuous and I love it.”

For example, says Maddock, take bath tonics, the main ingredient is Epsom salts which is magnesium sulphate. The body actively absorbs this mineral – fantastic if you do a lot of physical exercise and moving around – as it aids muscle recovery and body aches.

“The salts, combined with the skin nourishing qualities of cocoa butter means that your skin is both relaxing, repairing and actively absorbing nutrients at the same time,” says Maddock.

sweet escape 4Ensuring her production line stays relatively compact, affords Maddock quality control and a real sense of engagement with her scents.

“Going ‘big’ with my business has never been on the agenda. I produce in small batches so I can really focus on every piece and the end result,” she says. “I love the relationships I’ve created with smaller, boutique retailers who have close relationships with their own customers – I love to understand what is working in their local scene.  Many retailers provide me with wonderful feedback – which is brilliant for keeping on track with shifting trends. When people use my products, I want their first reaction sweet escape 6to be, ‘Oh, wow!’”

Sweet Escapes biggest splurge for 2017? A new package sealing system, which wraps soaps in a biodegradable film. “I love it!” enthuses Maddock.

With two children and a summer of holidays ahead, Sweet Escape is also employing a pair of younger hands.

sweet escape 1“I’ll be taking my products to the Eat, Drink & Be Crafty Fair at Battle Hill in rural Porirua and hopefully over to the Martinborough fairs too,” says Maddock. “My eleven-year-old daughter is my right-hand lady, so she’s looking forward to manning the stand and helping out. We love our girl’s day out!”
To view Sweet Escape’s stunning range of soaps and tonics on Gift Directory click here

Oct 9 2017

Cloudy with a Chance of Ice Cream . . . Glenn Jones Art innovative creations

gja 5Inspired by a true love for turning art prints into real products, husband-wife team, Julia and Glenn of Glenn Jones Art, got creative in the kitchen – I mean studio.

“Our ice cream-o-meter fridge magnet was our first product, and it’s been incredibly successful,” says Julia. “It was based on our Chance of Ice Cream art print. We loved the thought of people being turn the dial up and down as the chance increased and decreased (we use this with our own children!)”

The idea has now morphed into a number of different iterations – Chance of wine, beer, coffee, chocolate, fishing and golf. Glenn’s art is often inspired by real life items that he adds his own touch to – yester-year New Zealand also plays a role.

gja 2“Glenn is inspired by his childhood and growing up in the 70s and 80s, through to today. We have a very large range of designs – we think there’s something for everyone – and are particularly strong in the market of gifts for men,” says Julia. “People often tell us how our ice cream prints in particular remind them of their childhood with their grandparents, eating ice cream. A lot of our customers have nostalgic memories of our state house art print. One of our retailers had a customer ask if they could actually buy the gumboot in our high-heeled red-ban gumboot print – we need to talk to Skellerup about that!”

Positive is both humbling and a boost – especially with much on the go, explains Julia.

gja 1“We juggle! That’s how we do it! A couple of years ago when our youngest was a new baby, we literally had one of us holding the baby, while the other was working. Now, as the kids are slightly older, one of us is with the kids, while the other is working,” she says. “We have weekends off and we use a child-proof gate to keep the kids out of our office – although in reality it only keeps the youngest out!”

With three children five-and-under – the internet has made their business possible.

“Prior to the internet, the only way to buy art was in galleries or at a craft market. Now you can choose your art from anywhere in the world, and have it delivered to your door,” says Julia. “It also means we can run our business from our home, in amongst our family. We can talk directly with our customers, and they can still receive a personalised service.”

gjaCustomer feedback and global trends also influence Glenn’s artistry, explains Julia.

“Glenn is glued to Instagram which gives him a good steer on what people like,” she says. “We also listen to our customers and are constantly collecting data to tell us what our customers are buying.”

The business aims to be all-embracing which is why children play a key role in operations – both inspirational and collaborative.

gja 3“We have kids – kids love toys! I know our five-year-old would prefer toys to a piece of art.  However, art stays on their wall for a long time, they’ll always know who gave it to them and they forget about the toys (generally on Boxing Day!)” enthuses Julia. “Inspired partly by own our children’s endless need for ‘more paper, more pencils and cello tape’ and our appreciation of the Maori language, we created our Te Reo Maori crayons, alphabet and number flash cards and wooden signs.”

Being open to collaboration and whatever the day brings, allows the company to thrive.

gja 6We work well as a business because we are nimble and we use experts for the things we are not experts in,” explains Julia. “We have back up plans in place, we have off-site meetings, we are open to change. We consistently listen to our experts and apply their ideas, and then measure the impact. We are constantly tweaking what we do.”
To view Glenn Jones Art stunning array of prints on Gift Directory click here

Sep 28 2017

Students’ Winning Enterprise . . . Tau Mohio Number Knowledge in focus

Move over paint-by-numbers Te Reo’s in town!

te reo threeWhen Otumoetai College students Natalie Dawick, Phoebe Adler, Adriana Vickers, Amia Wharry and Faith Merrick where thinking upon a unique idea for the New Zealand schools’ Young Enterprise Challenge, they broadened their horizons and channelled their thoughts to innovative learning, Kiwi culture and the spoken word.

“Te Reo Maori is the indigenous language of New Zealand and as a group we felt that we weren’t given many opportunities to learn the language when we were children,” explains Natalie Dawick. “So, we wanted to provide Kiwi kids with this opportunity now.”

te reo 2With picture books and singalong education resources already in circulation, the Wider Horizons group, steered towards designing a product with an interactive twist.

“As part of our market research, we noticed that there are a range of products that teach Te Reo Maori. However, we noticed that none of them are highly interactive,” explains the group. “Many language teaching materials consist of posters and wall charts which not all children learn best from.”

The girls took a hands-on approach, creating a series of colourful, stylised Te Reo cards to be used in a variety of ways.

te reo“Our Tau Mohio Number Knowledge is unique because it isn’t a set game or exercise – it has multiple uses,” says Natalie. “The cards can be used as a matching game by spreading them out and getting children to find them. You can also put velcro on the back to use as flashcards, or stick them to a carpeted wall to use during mat time.”

The finishing touch? A poetry book which children can read – and be read to –  during mat time. And like many business ventures, Wider Horizon’s wasn’t complete without a few hurdles along the way.

te reo four “Our vision is to help kids get used to the language – children of all ages – which is why we spent a lot of time finalising the animal theme for the cards and poem book,” explains Natalie. “We always knew we wanted animals or insects that children would recognise but struggled with which ‘popular’ ones to feature. We eventually decided on a garden theme as children could read the poem book or look at the cards and then go out and identify them outdoors.”

The girls aimed high, hoping to spark a new wave of learning, and their efforts has seen Tau Mohio Knowledge already soar to popularity.

“We hope to get Tau Mohio Number Knowledge into many early childhood centres and shops across New Zealand and give children the opportunity to learn Te Reo Maori,” the group enthuse. “We are still unsure of where this may take us in the future but we are excited!”

To learn more about Tau Mohio Number Knowledge email the girls: [email protected]

Sep 20 2017

Wooden You Know It . . . Creative Toys’ sustainable focus

creative 1Amongst a sea of plastic and throw-away goods, you’ll find Trish Dawick of Creative Toys standing tall with wooden toy in hand. The Tauranga-based educational play company is firm in its sustainable and high-quality values – not one to be swayed by the lure of low-cost, mass-market items.

“When I took over the business in 2008 it was the quality and workmanship of the products that really had me sold,” explains Trish. “I previously spent two-years as a rep and I saw first-hand the benefits of the products we were selling to our education and preschool centres – they were just thriving and so enthusiastic about our ranges.”

creative 5Whilst every business experiences its challenges – especially at the beginning – Trish believes sticking to morals and hard work always pays off.

“As a toy wholesaler and retailer, I feel a responsibility when it comes to teaching our children about making sustainable choices,” she says. “Especially as everyone is so busy nowadays, I don’t think there is enough emphasis on making good decisions and thinking long-term. If I can play a small part through my own business practises and products I choose to sell, then I’m going to continue to do it.”

creative 6Creative Toys’ ethos for nurturing the principals behind the product also extends to its sales approach – smaller quantities for customers.

“I don’t believe in forcing retailers to order X amount of something or a huge supply of toys that may or may not sell,” says Trish. “I encourage retailers to buy three or four of something – trial it, see how they go – then make a decision.”

The benefits of being around toys and puzzles long after her own children have left the playmat still play out for Trish thanks to Creative Toys.

creative 3“Now I notice myself, what I may not have noticed so much with my own four kids at the time, is the importance of honing in on the tactile elements of a toy, puzzle or game – the touch and feel, the learning and development that simply comes from creative play,” she says. “Nowadays, I feel many parents just don’t put enough emphasis on engagement. I recently saw an under-two-year-old with screen in hand, eyes watering, in a pushchair, while her parents went around a gift fair. To me, it’s a lazy art of communication.”

With a no-nonsense approach to business, it’s no wonder Trish is happy to remain in the niche toy creative 4category.

“I import all my puzzles and games from Germany and while they don’t come cheap, I know the quality and designs are top-notch,” she explains. “I could also import plastics through the businesses I order from but I choose not to. Staying true to myself and my company vision is what matters most.”

href=” is what matters most.” “>To view Creative Toys wonderful collection of products on Gift Directory click here

Sep 6 2017

Back to the Future . . . JAYZ International’s timeless appeal

jayz 3Jay Esser isn’t just a toy fan – he’s an expert, with 27-years in the toy industry and three-months of each year spent attending international toy fairs, the director of renowned toy and gift wholesaler, JAYZ International, has more than a few stories – and toys – to share, plus plenty of friends around the world.

“My wish is that we have another 27-years ahead of us,” says Jay. “It’s a fascinating industry to work in: to watch new developments, reinventions and witness the return of classics. For us at JAYZ, we’re for puzzles and games and toys that teach the mind to think without the need for batteries. It’s that teaching element we put a lot of emphasis on.”

jayz 4Whilst the online world continues to transform our lives, the games of old still have a firm place on the shelf, says Jay.

“Family games are most definitely ever-popular and the act of playing games as a family is ever-present,” says Jay. “And it’s not just the new games that are engaging families, it’s the classics too – especially the likes of SET, Quiddler and Five Crowns – they’ve never slipped out of the loop. It’s that hands-on approach to spending time together that still trumps.”

With new games like WordSpiel and Slapzi – which recently won Best Game for Kids at the ASTRA awards – whizzing into popularity, it won’t be a dull Christmas Down Under.

jayz 5Teens are taken care of too with JAYZ popular Metal Earth steel models – the PlayStation can take a break.

“The idea behind Metal Earth products is that you construct a model from one, two or three sheets of metal, using pliers and tweezers, and you create this collectable item. It can take anywhere from one to three hours to make and there are some fantastic models to choose from,” explains Jay. “Metal Earth models really encourage tactile activity that engages the mind – and it’s really satisfying to have a collectable end product you’ve invested time into.”

Jays 2With ranges spanning puzzles and games, outdoor, discovery, wooden toys, music and arts and plush toys – to name but a few – choice abounds at JAYZ and there’s never a boring day in the office.

“There are so many excellent games on the market, you’ve got the likes of Honeycombs, Slapzi, Ghost Blitz, Crystal Puzzles (where you construct a 3D crystal puzzle to form a decoration) and Fake News or Not – all top games with fantastic thinking behind them.”

Let’s not forget the pets either! Summertime fun is taken care of for children and furry friends alike.

jayz 7“We’re selling Foxtail which is a toy that has really stood the test of time and it’s experiencing a resurgence in popularity,” says Jay. “Seven million Foxtails have been sold around the globe since their introduction and the concept is really simple: a fox tail that you throw to each other, or to the dog, or to whoever. It’s simply great outdoor fun!”

To ensure your Christmas stockings are brimming with all the top toys, click through to JAYZ fabulous array on Gift Directory.

Aug 23 2017

Par Plus Golf . . . Driving success from Down Under

golf fiveWhen his three daughters all took up golf sticks and turned a hand to the game, Derek Brown turned his hand to finding them good quality clothing gear. But he couldn’t find it.

“It was really challenging trying to find something decent, that wasn’t extremely priced – there was just nothing available,” he explains. “Never one to be deterred, we decided to create our own range of children/teen golfing wear and we’ve never looked back.”

With his artist daughter on hand to create the logos for Par Plus, his wife helping with the logistics, and golf fourinspiration from near and far, Derek and his family sought the best suppliers and fabrics to turn their dream into a reality. Five years on, Par Plus Golf clothing is reaching US shores, Finland, the UK, Australia – you name it!

“Creating ourselves as a ‘global’ brand was key right from the beginning,” says Derek. “We’re proud Kiwis but we want our products to speak for themselves, which is why we don’t have a New Zealand web address or mention anywhere on our dotcom site where our company is based. We want people to buy our products because they have a point-of-difference beyond a label or place of manufacture.’

golf oneA point-of-difference on the putting green is what Par Plus aims for. Its range includes brightly patterned skorts and pants, polos and t-shirts – all manufactured from high-quality fabrics, and unique in their own right.

“We take inspiration from our girls, from overseas, from what others are wearing on the golf course, and our products encourage young golfers to stand out and be diverse,” says Derek. “We had a young golfer in Taupo competing recently in a Junior Tiger Tournament and he was wearing our trousers on the course – he became known as ‘the guy in the bright trousers’. Well, he was the guy the media interviewed for their news story at the end of the tournament because he was so recognisable. He played well and he stood out!”

golf sixAffordability, just as much as colour, is a key driver behind Par Plus’s mission on the green.

“We recognise that as parents you can’t go forking out $400.00 for a jacket when one of the big brands brings it out – it’s just not a reality for many families,” says Derek. “So, we really wanted to fill the gap and make affordable durable clothing – with a mid-range price point – because it is important that our young people feel comfortable out on the course and looking good too.”

Whilst males may still be dominating the golfing world, there are more and more females putting the sport on the map – namely our own Lydia Ko and Tania Tare.

golf two“There may be fewer girls involved in the sport but I think that is slowly changing – we sitting up and noticing more. And funnily enough we sell just as much girl’s clothing as boy’s clothing – so there is a demand for it.”

With aspirations to keep growing and developing, there’s no stopping this innovative Taupo-based company. To view their fabulous range of products on Gift Directory click here

Aug 2 2017
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