Package wrapped in Christmas paper.

Norman and Steve Talk About the Holiday Season

Norman and Steve Talk About the Holiday Season

Tips From Two Peers on Preholiday Planning

It’s the calm before the storm — at least that’s what it might look from the outside of your pack-and-ship store. Inside, you’ve most likely been preparing over the last several weeks for the upcoming holiday rush.

To give you some insight into what veteran store owners are doing to get ready, we talked with two of your FedEx Authorized ShipCenter® (FASC) peers, Norman Froscher and Steve Dick. Here’s what they had to say about managing successful businesses during the holidays and using peak as an opportunity to convert drop-in customers into loyal patrons. 

Norman Froscher, co-owner of Espresso Mail in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Norman Froscher

Norman and his wife, Lisa, have owned Espresso Mail in West Palm Beach, Florida, since 2014. He’s also the board vice chair and director of engagement for the Association of Mail and Business Centers (AMBC).

Steve Dick, co-owner of Box King in Springfield, Ohio.

Steve Dick

Steve has co-owned Box King in Springfield, Ohio, with his mother since 2006. He’s also the board treasurer and director of print for profit at AMBC.

The Start of Peak Season

I'll ramp it up into high gear the end of September and beginning of October. We do a lot more retail now, so plans are already in place for what products we're going to try for the new year. For the shipping aspect of it, we try to have everything ready by the end of October/first week of November. Thanksgiving weekend is when peak really kicks off.

— Norman

I start preparing for peak around October. I'm a little bit different than a lot of pack-and-ship stores because my volume of printing and the other things that I do keep me pretty even-keeled throughout the entire year. So I don't have as much of a volume bump in December compared to most stores. Last year, we really didn't start picking up until about the first of December.

— Steve

Inventory and Supplies

I take a look at the numbers from the previous years. Right now, we're up 20% over last year, so I'm going to look at the packing supplies, the boxes and the inventory levels. I’ll make sure that we have 20–25% higher volume for the shipping supplies than what we did last year.

 — Norman

The biggest thing for me is to make final decisions on my marketing for the holiday season and start getting in extra boxes to build up my supply. I look at the trends, see what volume of boxes sold over November, December and January of the previous years. I use that plus a percentage.

 — Steve

Preholiday Marketing

We do Every Door Direct Mail to a lot of the residents in the area. We've done sign holders — holding a sign out — and sign spinners. Yes, with a real person. During the holiday season, we'll pull some of the FedEx marketing materials off of the web. We're very active on social media: We do Facebook and Instagram ads, as well. You've got to engage them on social media. I can tell you, we've gained customers from it.

 

— Norman

I have in-store flyers. I also work with a couple of businesses to do cross-promotion. I always do a big EDDM [Every Door Direct Mail] or postcard mailing. I include the last days to ship on flyers, though sometimes I include that in print advertising in the newspaper — as a calendar, it draws people's attention. I use Facebook and Instagram for short in-store specials and general top-of-mind awareness. We use Constant Contact to drive traffic to our website and for more detailed promotions.

 — Steve

Decorations

We don’t start to decorate until after Thanksgiving. We try to keep it tasteful — a little bit of Hanukkah, a little bit of Christmas. We're South Florida, so we have a lighted palm tree with some ornaments, and we have a menorah and a stocking up by the front register and back counter. Especially the two weeks before Christmas, we play Christmas music.

— Norman

Generally, we decorate the store the day after Thanksgiving. Just all sorts of stuff hanging from the ceiling and lights in the windows. We rearrange a lot. Around the first week of November, we put all of our Christmas cards out. We use satellite radio and alternate between two or three Christmas radio stations during the holiday season.

 — Steve

Customer Refreshments

I bought a truckload, a pallet-full of water with my logo branded on it. When customers come in, we offer them a bottle of water, a muffin, a cookie.

— Norman

We always have candy dishes out year-round just because I think candy makes an unhappy person less unhappy and makes a happier person happier.

 — Steve

Customer Conversion

The holiday season is that one shot you have with the new people coming into the store. It’s that one time of the year, more than any other time, for them to discover who we are and what we do — and for us to earn their confidence. That gives us one chance to greet them, ask them if they want a cup of coffee, ask them if they want a bottle of water. We have a pretty good conversion rate.

— Norman 

Peak is when we get the most new visitors to our store — and people coming back with returns. Those are the times to convert those customers to year-round customers in any way you can. Make sure that they know all of your services. Make sure they have a reason to come back — some sort of a discount, some sort of an offer.
 

 — Steve

Coupons and Discounts

We'll do a mailing to a lot of the residents in the area with a couple of coupons. And we have a couple of coupons on our website. If they pay for the shipping, they get a free box. It's basically to get people into the door who might not otherwise come in. We tried a rewards program, but on the shipping end of it, it was just cannibalizing. We were giving them additional discounts when they were already coming in.


 

 — Norman

I do EDDM or postcard mailings with printing and shipping discounts for the holiday season. I try to have at least three or four offers on there. Normally, I do a simple $2 off FedEx Ground, $5 off of FedEx Express — and I do a free box with any paid package. A free box is going to be 5% to 7% of your total transaction cost, so it's less than if I offered a 10% discount on a shipment. But customers like the word "free." For me, it’s an ability to push them into a FedEx Express® versus a FedEx Ground® shipment. I've always had a large volume of FedEx Ground.

 — Steve

Team Nourishment

I have two part-time employees right now and myself. I may look at adding a part-time person this year. We're a combo pack-and-ship store and coffee shop — we keep ourselves and our customers happily caffeinated.

— Norman

I've got five full-time employees. We stock water and coffees and tea, and we always have snacks of some sort. We do meals on a regular basis. Especially during the busiest shipping week, we'll have food catered in two or three of those days.

 — Steve

Holiday Busyness

I enjoy being busy. I enjoy having a whole bunch of people in the store and trying to manage taking care of them all.
 

 — Norman

A lot of my volume is the older folks. We cater to everybody, but there's a bump in the older folks because they like our service — they like the fact that it's hassle-free.

 — Steve