Summertime is the personalized gifts retailer's time to prepare for the holidays. That preparation typically consists of hiring strategies, load testing its ecommerce site, adding more products and executing marketing programs.

As a personalized gifts retailer, GiftsForYouNow.com is always thinking about the holidays—from Christmas to Halloween to Mother’s and Father’s Day.

“But summer is our exhale moment,” says president Jim Tuchler. “We’ve made it through our Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and graduation seasons, now we’re gearing up for Q4.”

Preparing for Q4 typically means hiring strategies, load testing its ecommerce site to scale up for holiday demand, adding more products and executing marketing programs. June 15 to October 15 is the gifts retailer’s window to get these things done, as well as buy new equipment and machinery, such as presses, lasers and embroidery machines, to have more efficiency and capacity as it creates its personalized products.

It also is introducing more personalization on its ecommerce site, where it will recognize the shopper and show products relevant to what she has browsed. If the shopper looked for blue shirts, it will show her more types of blue shirts. Or, for example, if the shopper came to its site from a deals website, it will show her deals and coupons.

“We might ask your name and that’s in the web cookies, so then we can show products that have your name on them,” Tuchler says.

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Preparing with the pandemic in mind

GiftsForYouNow.com last year had to deal with the shortened season—6 fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas—and experienced 20% lower sales volume in November, while its volume was up 35% in December. So, the retailer is preparing with last year in mind, despite how different the world has become because of the coronavirus pandemic.

For example, if there is a second wave of coronavirus cases and the retailer has to shut down, “that would be catastrophic,” Tuchler says.

Another challenge could be inventory shortages. If the retailer has a huge spike in sales or sells out of anything, it plans to use domestic suppliers so it can quickly replenish inventory. Using domestic suppliers also means it doesn’t have to contend with any supply chain shutdowns in other countries. Plus, it takes about 120 days to import something from its overseas suppliers; if GiftsForYouNow.com wants a product from overseas, July is its last chance to order those items and have them in time for the holidays, Tuchler says.

The retailer this year also made the decision not to buy Halloween-specific goods, such as trick or treat bags and baskets. “We thought about what’s going on this year, and dressing up your vulnerable child and going to stranger’s houses for candy? That’s the last thing you want to do,” Tuchler says. It plans to sell its leftover 2019 Halloween items, but if there is a boom in Halloween-related sales and GiftsForYouNow.com doesn’t have the inventory, “then so be it,” he says.

Right now, the retailer predicts its online Halloween sales will be down year over year and Christmas will be up compared with last year. Therefore, GiftsForYouNow.com is preparing for modest growth this holiday season and expects to have the same December increase in sales as last year, Tuchler says. “Last year was good preparation since we saw that 3-week spike,” he says. “I think that consumers have been trained to wait because of Amazon Prime’s 2-day delivery window and that won’t change.”

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How GiftsForYouNow.com plans to promote the holidays

GiftsForYouNow.com’s usual marketing budget is about $3-4 million a year, Tuchler says. Its customer acquisition comes through paid search, affiliate marketing and social media, while email marketing is better for its customer retention. But it drastically shrunk its social media budget, which it uses for its wedding business Beau-Coup.com, due to the pandemic and the retailer anticipating fewer weddings this season. For example, it usually allocates about $300,000 to Pinterest for Beau-Coup.com, but it’s only spent about $15,000 since that business has struggled amid the pandemic.

Along with altering its budget, it also has had to alter its messaging. For Beau-Coup.com, early on in the pandemic, it had an email that went out that promoted partying indoors. “I said, ‘we cannot go out with that messaging.’ So we quickly pivoted on the messaging,” Tuchler says. It changed that message to, “If you want to start planning your wedding, we’re here for you.”

But when it comes to the holidays, its marketing messaging will remain the same unless COVID-19 forces the retailer to change it, he says.

“We also may do more messaging around being a good social citizen,” Tuchler says. “We’ve given $75,000 in donations to social justice movements, but we haven’t touted it. But we’re trying to raise our voice a little bit, whether it’s about COVID-19 or social justice causes.”

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