Seen & Heard: Retailers Dip Into Gift-Card Potential Year-round

Customers often like to include a token gift along with a gift card. Nathalie & Co. makes it easy by displaying the two together.

Sure, gift cards almost sell themselves during the holidays, but retailers have recognized there’s more profit potential to
be tapped in these plastic pieces. U.S. consumers bought an average of 6.5 physical gift cards last year, up from 5.9 the previous year, according to a recent First Data study. And all these gift cards are creating new customers for stores. Forty-four percent of shoppers said that getting a gift card made them go to a store they would not have otherwise visited. Many point-of-sale systems offer gift card programs now, making it easy to customize gift cards for your store and present your customers with a sleek, professional product that is integrated with your POS.

Whether owners offer electronic or physical cards, a little ingenuity—expanding promotion, customizing designs, adding a few incentives—can help dance retailers benefit from the added sales of these gifts.

Always in Season

Although holidays are the biggest season for gift card sales, birthdays are a close runner-up for family and friends who don’t know what to get dancers, says Nathalie Velasquez, owner of Nathalie & Co. Dancewear and Little Things in Phoenix. The store promotes gift cards year-round via e-mail blasts and social media.

On Black Friday and Small Business Saturday weekend, Nathalie & Co. offers an added incentive: Customers get $60 for each $50 gift card purchased. “Lots of grandparents and dance friends are more likely to purchase a gift card in the shop,” says Velasquez. “It’s common for our gift card sales to be a last-minute gift idea.”

Share Some Words

“It was either socks or a gift card,” “You’re difficult to shop for” and “This is a gift” are just a handful of the humorous sayings splashed on gift cards at Nathalie & Co. The retailer offers customers electronic and physical gift cards, which it customizes through its Square POS system. (Square has a third-party partner that integrates its gift cards with the POS.) “You can pick from their designs or custom-design your own, and the cards are ready to use upon delivery,” says Velasquez. “We don’t have to activate anything. It’s really user-friendly to process a gift card.”

Gift cards are sold year-round at many dance stores now, often customized for different seasons or events.

Just Right for You

Customized gift cards offer stores the opportunity to personalize them—stores have even created cards for a particular sought-after brand among their customers. Customizing with a store’s logo or name can also help build brand awareness as cards make their way to regular customers—and new ones. Seasonal or big-event themes and a variety of colors also keep the gift card mix interesting for customers. Mary Ann Hanlon of Mary Ann’s Dance and More in Easthampton, MA, gets gift cards produced with special Christmas and other designs to complement the winter holiday season, but the store’s physical and digital gift cards sell year-round. “There’s no particular season for them in our store,” says Hanlon. “It’s the go-to birthday gift.” She says that word-of-mouth sells cards throughout the year. E-cards are offered on the store’s e-commerce site; the retailer also donates gift cards to events throughout the year to spread the word.

Social Awareness

The trick to keeping gift card sales moving year-round: Always promote them! Jane Hallick of Jane’s Dance Boutique in Stuart, FL, sells gift cards throughout the year, with recital season a close second to holidays in terms of big sales. The retailer calls out the store’s gift cards throughout the year on social media, the store’s website and at the bottom of e-mail blasts. Hallick customized the cards with the store’s logo and name. “Girls always need shoes, tights and leotards,” says Hallick, adding that customers often call and order gift cards over the phone and have them shipped directly to dancers.

“Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are always looking for something to purchase for their dancer, gymnast, twirler,” says Hallick, noting that most people purchase $50 and $25 cards. “With sizing the way it is, and special dress codes, it’s difficult for people to make purchases without the dancer.”

Beyond the Register

Pink gift cards with the words “Gabie’s Boutique” in script are set in a special display at the store of the same name. Amy Manning, store manager of Gabie’s Boutique in Newmarket, ON, promotes the cards with social media and e-mail year-round, specifically near the winter holidays, as an alternative for those “hard-to-buy-for dancers and the teachers who have everything,” she says.

Worldtone Dance gift-wraps its gift certificates.

Manning says that gift cards are a great option, since most of their customers are tweens who are picky about what they wear. And “parents ask family to purchase gift cards for their dancers to help offset the huge expense of outfitting them for competition season,” says Manning. Often, customers who purchase gift cards add a few extra items, giving the store an instant upsell. “When these family members come in, they almost always pick up other little giftware items or dancewear.”

Shoes are particularly tricky to purchase for another dancer. Gift cards aren’t on display in-store at dance shoe retailer Worldtone Dance, which has locations in New York City and Los Angeles. Instead, the store prints and packages them at the time of sale. “Usually people buy them for their family members who dance, and students will purchase them for their instructors,” says Alexandra Ginzburg, head of strategic development at Worldtone. “Very often it is much easier to buy a gift certificate than a dance shoe,” she says. “[Dancers have] highly specific preferences and fit [in shoes], which makes it hard to purchase for someone else.”

Gift certificates are made-to-order and customized by amount. Even the “to” and “from” can be customized in-store and printed at the time of purchase, according to Ginzburg. Cards are then gift-boxed and topped with a bow.

Tina Benitez-Eves is a New York City–based writer who is a frequent contributor to Dance Retailer News.

 

Photos (from top): courtesy of Nathalie & Co. Dancewear and Little Things; courtesy of Mary Ann’s Dance and More; courtesy of Worldtone Dance

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *