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critical mass

maximizing foil balloon sales

Merchandising strategies to get the most from these profitable products.

by Maxine Burton

    We all know that balloons are an easy, low-cost way to increase add-on sales or to add value to existing products in floral departments. Still, we often hear from retailers who are not maximizing their efforts and are asking, “What can my store do to improve balloon sales?”
Here are a few suggestions I’ve accumulated over the last 27-plus years.

inflate your balloons
This sounds obvious, but we see so many people stock packaged balloons on a rack without inflating them. Although foil balloons are offered in packages for storage purposes, they are meant to be displayed fully inflated. Inflated balloons sell faster because they are an impulse buy. By displaying balloons inflated, with curling ribbon and weights, you take time out of the equation for your customers. It’s much easier for customers to grab inflated balloons to go than it is to find someone to inflate one and wait while that’s being done. Make buying balloons as simple as possible for your customers; it’s a guaranteed way to increase sales.
Another tip is to add several latex balloons to a single foil balloon, creating an easy and inexpensive upgrade. By adding several Hi-Float®-treated latex balloons to a foil balloon, you significantly increase the perceived value of the product at a minimal cost and create a product that can be sold at a greater price.

plan your display locations
How and where you merchandise your balloons is extremely important. Obviously the best place to display inflated balloons is in high-traffic areas. Have you pinpointed where those areas are in your store? Begin within your department. Most floral departments have tiered merchandisers for potted plants. Utilize the space at the top of these to present foil balloons that tie into the theme of the display, the season or both. Other ideal places include the checkout registers, the bakery, the seasonal aisle and the card aisle. Be sure to display your best-selling balloons in all these places.
• Display balloons at the checkout registers that are always open. If you’re not certain which ones these are, ask your store manager.
• Cross-merchandise with your bakery the hot licensed balloons that match the licensed cakes they design. The two really go hand in hand, and the combo is a no-brainer for customers.
• The seasonal aisle in your store is ever-changing, which presents a terrific opportunity to place the newest seasonal balloon designs. Create clusters of balloons, and attach them every 4 feet to 6 feet on either side of the aisle. Display 18-inch foil balloons and jumbo shape balloons to create a festive atmosphere. Be sure to clearly price these balloons so customers will know these balloons are for sale.
• The card aisle is one of the best places to display foil balloons. Customers shopping for cards will have easy access to coordinating foil balloons or balloon clusters. Match the sentiments on the balloons with the sentiments on the cards you display the balloons above.
• Look for displays in your store that contain products for specific licensed characters. Accent this display with matching character balloons.

maintain your displays
Wherever you decide to display your foil balloons, keep the following things in mind.
• Keep all foil balloons fully inflated. No one wants to buy a “mushy” balloon. Over time, a foil balloon will lose helium and need to be reinflated. This can be done multiple times.
• Stagger balloons at varying heights when displaying them in clusters. This helps reduce tangling and draws more attention to them. Display balloons between 4 feet and 6 feet from the floor. This “impact zone” naturally attracts customers’ attention.
• Price foil balloons clearly so consumers can see the costs. Many times customers don’t buy balloons because they don’t know they are for sale. This contributes heavily to lost sales. You also can use “Buy Me Now” stickers to communicate the price to your customers.

focus on what sells in your area
The balloons that should be inflated and displayed will vary from location to location depending on trends and customer demographics. Generally, generic Happy Birthday, licensed character and Get Well will be your best-sellers, in that order. You should always keep these inflated and displayed, ready for purchase at any time.
Most importantly, have fun! You are in the business of parties, life’s monumental milestones and making people happy. Combine your creativity and enthusiasm along with some of the tips here to increase sales and profits in 2009.

Maxine Burton is president and chief operating officer of burton + BURTON. Formed in 1982, the family-owned and operated business is one of the largest distributors of balloons and coordinating gift products in the world. Reach her at (706) 548-1588.


Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.