Holiday Sales Checklist: Is Your Dance Store Ready?

Check off these prep steps, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful holiday sales season. 

Two black leotards hanging above bare branches of a tree decorated with red, orange, blue, green and yellow modernist Nutcracker ornaments.
Modernist Nutcracker ornaments announce the holiday season at On Your Toes Performance Wear in Durant, OK. Courtesy of Adrienne Hansen.

By early November, most consumers—59 percent in 2020, reports the National Retail Federation—will begin shopping for the holidays. As you put your dance store’s holiday sales planning into high gear, here are some smart ideas for making the 2021 winter shopping season your best yet, despite the lingering impact of the pandemic.

Mark your calendar with these important dates.

  • Small Business Saturday, November 27. Like Black Friday but for small local businesses, this is the day to run Shop Small promotions and events. It’s also an ideal time to team up with other like-minded small businesses. Local holiday markets or shopping events can be a great way to get in front of your customers—and reach out to new ones.
  • Hanukkah, November 28 through December 5. Capture sales from dancers celebrating this Jewish holiday with a gift guide for eight nights of dancewear gifts.
  • Green Monday, December 13. The second Monday in December traditionally marks the last day that shoppers can place an online order in time for holiday delivery. Promote this date to create a sense of excitement and urgency for customers who prefer to shop online. 

Make your selling plan for local Nutcracker performances. 

Have you checked the dates your local dance companies have decided on for this year’s Nutcracker performances? Will they be in-person events? Adrienne Hansen, owner of On Your Toes Performance Wear in Durant, OK, is setting up sales at two shows this season. “We usually have a gift table featuring Nutcracker gifts,” she says. “Traditionally we give 10 percent back to the studio. So studios don’t charge a vendor fee, but they do get 10 percent of the profits we make.” 

Restock your money makers.

COVID-19 is still causing plenty of supply chain delays, so get your inventory in order sooner rather than later to ensure that you’re stocked for holiday shoppers. This is the time for you to load up on your best sellers and this year’s hot gift items. Hansen usually sees a lot of interest in personalized gifts, such as ornaments bearing the dancer’s name and the year. “They’re great impulse buys, and allow for a decent markup depending on where you order them from,” she says. With more local dancers involved in Nutcracker shows this year, she expects demand for this type of gift to be up.

Delight your customers with something new.

The holiday season is a great time to test out new merchandise. Metronome Dancewear in Carmel, CA, shares a retail space with Zearly, a children’s boutique. Zearly seeks out and sources dance-inspired toys, books and dolls that make wonderful holiday gifts. Heather Aldi, the owner of both stores, says some of her customers’ favorites include Maileg mice and Elly Ballerina from Jellycat. 

Don’t forget gift cards. 

With supply chain delays this year, these could be especially useful. Hansen orders holiday-themed cards and holders for her gift cards from eCard Systems. “They work seamlessly with Square, and we ordered the cute Nutcracker holder,” she says. “We also offer electronic gift cards through our website.” Retailers who use Square are able to use its holiday templates for e-gift cards, which adds a special touch for gift givers.

Gift card with words "FA-LA-LA-LA-LA" in a holder with a nutcracker graphic in bold red gold and white
Gift card and holder from On Your Toes Performance Wear. Courtesy of Adrienne Hansen.

Order packaging supplies. 

When customers walk out with their purchases, your store’s shopping bag—and gift wrap—are walking advertisements for your business. Do you need to order any holiday gift wrap, shopping bags, tissue paper and insert cards that you will be using to make gift purchases extra special? 

Make sure your team is prepared for holiday traffic.

You may be bringing on extra seasonal help. Hold brief training sessions on what and how new holiday merchandise should be promoted, how to use the POS system and any other store policies and procedures that they may need to take over as the shop gets busy.

Clarify your return policy.

Gifts, especially when they’re clothing, always run the risk of returns. That’s why you need to restate your policy clearly on your website, share it on social media, display it on a sign near the cash wrap and even add it to your printed receipts.  

Deck the halls.

This year, more than ever, customers will welcome any new and festive twists you make to your usual holiday decor. Hansen is giving the store’s Nutcracker theme a fresh look with new, modern-styled Nutcrackers and an updated color scheme. “One studio opted to do a different twist on the show—they watched Debbie Allen’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker and were very excited to make some changes,” she says. She decided to change up her store’s decor to include brighter colors, not just red and green. “This year the trees we usually decorate will have a more modern look,” she says. “Our decor choice symbolizes the whole year and a half of thinking outside the box that we’ve all had to do. It will signal a fresh beginning for everybody.” 

Black sign with names of Nutcracker ballet characters and a solid blue nutcracker ornament next to it.
This year, On Your Toes went for a modern look in its decor. “It will signal a fresh beginning for everybody,” says owner Adrienne Hansen. Courtesy of On Your Toes

Lanterns are also popular in holiday window displays, and, according to Becky Tyre, producer of Retail Details, the Podcast, they are trending in home decor. She also suggests retailers use vinyl window clings. “They are often overlooked as holiday window display additions,” she says. “But window borders and frames in a holly design or a whimsical string of lights provide a big impact while being inexpensive and easy to install.” Search “window graphics” on Pinterest to look for ideas and inspiration.

Leverage the power of social media. 

Log on to TikTok to generate more buzz for your store on this popular social video sharing platform. Tag your posts with trending hashtags like #BlackFriday (search top retailer social media feeds for this year’s favorites). This will help you be part of the excitement users share over the biggest shopping holiday. Unboxing (#Unboxing) videos are another easy way to generate excitement over your gift collection. 

Go one step further and make the experience interactive—hold a dance contest and invite followers to submit their videos of a trending challenge or song. Award the top three videos a gift card or dancewear gift they have to pick up in your store. 

While TikTok is trending among your youngest customers, don’t forget that their moms are more likely to be on Facebook and Instagram, so consider holding a live sale on these platforms one evening to help make shopping easier for them. 

You can also refresh some of your existing content ideas with a holiday twist. Film a hair tutorial featuring Nutcracker bows and hair accessories, or a video that shows dancers tools they can use to keep their muscles warm during cold weather months. 

Partner with a charity.

Shoppers are more likely to spend with a business whose values are in line with their own, and the holidays are a perfect opportunity to spotlight a cause. Consider partnering with a local food bank to run a can drive. Invite your customers to a shopping event and ask them to donate one nonperishable food item.

For a cause that’s close to the hearts of your customers, consider working with Donate2Dance, a nonprofit that collects gently worn dancewear and shoes to give to dancers in need—those in underserved communities or with special needs. Ask your customers to bring in their pre-loved dance items in exchange for a discount on their next purchase. 

Libby Basile reports regularly on visual merchandising, retail strategy and store design