If this year’s holiday shopping season is anything like last year’s, many Americans will wait until the eleventh hour to buy gifts — students included. About half of us were done with our shopping last season by December 20, according to a survey by the National Retail Foundation. The report estimated that 126 million consumers, 53 percent, would wait until Super Saturday, the weekend before Christmas, to finish up their shopping.
A number of students will be on campus until after finals, hoping to find some gifts before they head home. Their need to focus on exams will have given them even more incentive to delay holiday shopping. Collegiate retailers can tap into a need: These students have little time or energy available for shopping, but they might benefit from getting it done before vacation officially starts so they can focus on more restorative tasks: relaxing, joining festivities, eating and monopolizing a parent’s free washer and dryer.
Transform your store into a one-stop shop for family gifts with offerings for every budget. In a few steps, you can create a haven for last-minute shoppers who have been too busy studying to think about the holidays.
6 Steps Collegiate Retailers Can Take to Attract Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers1. Align your sale with finals: Plan your holiday sale event to start at the beginning of finals, so that students who finish early can take advantage of your offerings. Let the sale run until the day after exams end. That way the last cohort of test-takers can stop off at your store before they depart.
Consider investing a small sum ($25 to $50) in a paid social media campaign that targets students in your area and links to your store’s website. That will help you reach potential last-minute shoppers on campus. Create an ad with an image of your store that says something like, “Still studying? Get all your last-minute shopping done fast at the bookstore. 5% off all gifts!”
2. Select gifts: Much college retail fare can also make for excellent family gifts. Soft onesies aren’t just comfortable in dorm rooms. A mom might like one for her evening ritual with tea and a book (or wine and TV). The kits stocked for art majors could become a source of inspiration for a creative sibling in high school. Most collegiate retailers stock calendars and organizers that would be useful in a variety of contexts. Meanwhile, a stylish logoed athletic shirt is likely to please anyone who’s proud of a loved one for attending college.
3. Cut prices: Entice students with a price-reduction — 5 or 10 percent — on the gifts you’ve brainstormed. Right or wrong, many students believe college retailers are overpriced. The reduction will make the convenience of shopping on campus even more appealing.
If you put an abundance of potential gifts on sale — from art kits to logo gear — students are likely to complete more of their shopping in your store. They’ll know they wouldn’t find many of the items on sale elsewhere.
4. Post daily on social media — You can post signs on campus before the sale, but your best bet for reaching students during finals is likely to be social media. Many students might stay away from parties or bars during exams; far fewer will unplug from their virtual social life. Post images to your store’s channels — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat — featuring gift items for different family members, multiple times a day if possible. A "shop now" button on an Instagram ad will prompt them to go make some purchases right away.
5. Create displays — Shortly before your sale, set up tables piled with suggested gifts in high-traffic areas. Place an assortment of gifts for different family member on each table — labelled accordingly — or designate tables for each family member. The goal is to guide students toward a gift for every name on their shopping list. If you live in a warmer climate, consider moving your tables outside, so students can easily stop and browse while passing through during exams.
To build buzz, update social media several times a day before and during the sale. Post an image of a discounted item — a soft, logoed bathrobe, for instance — in the morning and write: “Still need a gift for Mom? Get all your Christmas shopping done at the bookstore. All gifts 5% off until Sunday!” Later in the day, post an image of a colorful journal or calendar with a caption like this: “Don’t forget Grandma. Get all your Christmas shopping done before you leave campus. We’ll make it easy! All gifts 5% off at the bookstore through the end of finals.”
Prepare your associates to help customers find gifts for individual family members, then post the following on social media at least once daily: “Behind on shopping? Come to the college store this week. Just ask an associate. We’ll help you find something for everyone on your list! 5% off all gifts at the bookstore until exams end.”