Here’s Why the Spectacle of Holiday Windows Is Still Crucial for Brands

Tradition builds good will and foot traffic

Dozens of heads, torsos and rows of various dismembered limbs hang on the walls of a storage room in Spaeth Design's Queens, N.Y., office. They are labeled—'Macy's, '99, Fat Man'— and belong to the ghosts of holidays past, the dozens of mannequins that have at one time or another populated the fantastical world of the famous New York City holiday window displays of retailers like Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Lord & Taylor, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. You know, the windows people travel from all over the world to see between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

October is crunch time for Spaeth Design. It's one of the best-known design firms making up a small but critical cottage industry of decorating department store windows for the holidays.

It's a business that helps drive foot traffic (Lord & Taylor estimates that 500,000 people pass by its windows daily; Macy's clocks 15,000 people per hour during the holiday season, up from the typical 10,000 per hour) and ostensibly boosts sales—analysts say it's near impossible to evaluate, though they try.

Construction in the holiday workshop has kicked into high gear over the last few weeks, as the shop's nearly 60 employees (30 of which are full-time) labor to meet a fast-approaching deadline. Spaeth Design has been creating holiday windows for these major retailers for over 60 years, but talks with this year's main clients, Bloomingdale's and Lord & Taylor, started late.

"We're working as we should be delivering," explains David Spaeth, owner and CEO of the shop. Spaeth runs the firm with his wife Sandra, who serves as president.

All that pressure makes sense. The holiday season rings up some 25 percent of annual sales for retailers, and window displays influence purchase on average 24 percent of the time, according to NPD research. Meanwhile, the average consumer is projected to spend roughly $805.65 this year on holiday shopping, pushing November and December sales (excluding automotive, gas and restaurant purchases) to $630.7 billion, up 3.7 percent versus last year, according to the National Retail Foundation.

Of course, the bad news for brick-and-mortar stores is that, according to the NRF, 46 percent of all holiday shopping, browsing and buying this year will be done online.

"What do the stores want? They want you in the store, they need you in the store," says Marshal Cohen, NPD's chief industry analyst. "Impulse [buying] happens in the store 45 percent of the time; impulse [buying] happens online 18 percent of the time. It's so critical for them to drive traffic to the store and then ultimately try to get you into the store, even if it means doing things the old-fashioned way. Using windows and holiday displays, and turning it into a tradition to make it have everlasting life is a critical thing for them to do."

Every year by mid-November, the retailers reveal—with ever-increasing pomp and circumstance—their holiday displays, hoping that consumers will journey to the stores to see the windows in person. (Grumpy Cat and Nick Jonas were among last year's in-store holiday celebrities.) For thousands of families, going to see the windows is something that has become a tradition and been passed down from generation to generation. "Macy's windows have become an iconic, important tourist visit," says Roya Sullivan, the chain's national window director. "As that's happened over the years, the celebration and unveiling has become more prominent."

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Article by Kristina Monllos


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TAGS:   Community, holidays, trends


Retailers give shoppers new reasons to use mobile phones in stores


At some Macy's outlets this holiday season, shoppers who download the retailer’s app will be able to use their smart phones to guide them through the store to products they’re seeking.

At JCPenney, customers will be able to take a snapshot of, for example, boots worn by a person passing by and quickly find out if the store has similar ones in stock. And Staples is testing an app that will allow sales clerks to let customers know how the store’s prices match up against Amazon and other rivals.

Hoping to claw back market share from online rivals - and tired of watching customers use their phones to find better deals than those offered in stores - brick and mortar retailers are trying to give shoppers different reasons to use their phones while doing holiday shopping.

The new apps will allow customers to easily order out-of-stock items for home delivery, to check store prices and even to summon a clerk.

But the retailers’ efforts will face two significant challenges in the looming holiday season: getting customers to embrace the new technology, which is still sometimes glitchy and dependent on in-store systems, and getting them to trust that stores can match the Web’s prices and convenience.

Retail purchases by mobile phone have increased by 34 percent in the last year, according to IBM, which estimates that more than 40 percent of the online traffic and about 20 percent of sales this Thanksgiving weekend will come from smart phones.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll of more than 3,000 respondents this month found that about half of those surveyed said they would use their mobile phones while shopping in stores this holiday season, for such things as making price comparisons, taking photos or researching products. Last year, only about 42% of respondents said they would use their phones while shopping.

Companies that don’t make mobile work are playing a "very dangerous" game, said Jay Henderson, head of IBM’s cloud-based marketing platform. "Retailers that can’t deliver a more personalized experience on mobile devices will start losing customers to businesses that can," he said.

In addition to its pilot program guiding customers to products within stores, and a photo program similar to JCPenney's, Macy's has taken inspiration from dating app Tinder, recommending products to customers online who swipe one way to like an item and the other to reject it.

JCPenney's app can be used to scan barcodes to pull up product information or order out of stock items, and it saves digital coupons - two increasingly common offerings in retailer apps.

“We look at using phones in stores as an enhancement to shopping,” said Kate Coultas, a representative with JCPenney which is heavily focused on mobile this year.



Stores are trying to make customer service easier, too. 

Best Buy's app now lets shoppers call, text or email a representative while in stores.

Target Corp is testing an in-store "digital service ambassador" in 25 Los Angeles stores to help customers use Target apps.

Ulta Beauty is testing an app that will allow clerks to access customer information and point them to products they might like.

Faisal Masud, executive vice president of global e-commerce at Staples, said his company knows that it must satisfy the desires of its customers to find low prices. The company, like many others, will match online and in-store prices of competitors, including Amazon, Best Buy and Office Depot.

Customers “have a phone that is basically a super computer, and they will find it somewhere else” for less if they can, he said.

Companies offering web apps and in-store technologies will also have to grapple with keeping the new apps and systems working and up to date. That means ensuring that WiFi in stores works, and that terminals function.

Recent visits to a Staples store in New York City found that a kiosk set up to allow people to order online wasn’t functioning, and at a JCPenney store in the city, the Wifi didn’t work. Both companies said the problems encountered were unusual and that they have backup systems in place.

"Poorly executed plans can be worse than no mobile strategy at all," said Perry Kramer, vice president at Boston Retail Partners. "The dangers are losing those customers for the rest of the year or for a long time."

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Source: Reuters - Technology
Article by Kylie Gumpert


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TAGS:   holidays, trends


Travel Tags, Inc. Appoints Timothy Lebens, VP Sales and Marketing

INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, MN – Travel Tags, Inc. announces the appointment of Timothy Lebens as vice president of sales and marketing.

Mr. Lebens brings more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience to his new role and has a strong background in strategic marketing, sales leadership and business development.

“Timothy is an excellent addition to our organization,” said Al Rausch, president of Travel Tags. “His broad experience is well suited to help expand our core products and services to continue growth within both current and new markets.”

Lebens’s impressive track record includes cross-channel marketing, brand strengthening, strategy development and successfully bringing new products to market. 

“I am excited to join such a recognized leader in the card manufacturing industry,” said Lebens. “As we continue to uphold a stellar reputation for quality, service and innovation in our core markets, I look forward to seizing additional opportunities in markets that may be unfamiliar to us today.”

Travel Tags, Inc. is a global manufacturer of unique gift card solutions under the Travel Tags brand, and specialty print products under the Virtual Images brand. A partner to some of the world's most respected brands, Travel Tags produces millions of gift cards every year and ships to over 30 countries. The company has an impressive history as an innovative trend leader, generating customer-driven solutions and the highest quality available in the markets we serve. Travel Tags’ turnkey solutions include design, fulfillment, packaging, personalization and a broad range of specialty printing.

TAGS:   Careers, Timothy Lebens