Father's Day Can Be a Small-Business Bonanza

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Father's Day is just around the corner, and so is the last-minute gift shopping -- mainly in the home improvement, electronics and bad-tie aisles. But department stores and large discount retailers don't have to be the only ones that profit from shopping for Dad.

Small businesses can make their mark this Father's Day by displaying their uniqueness and offering superior customer service.
Department stores and large discount retailers don't have to be the only ones profiting from Father's Day. Small businesses can also get in on the action.

Total spending for Father's Day is expected to reach $11.1 billion this year. On average, Americans will shell out $106.49 on Dad, 13% more than they spent last year and the most in eight years, according to the National Retail Federation's Consumer Intentions and Actions Father's Day survey, which polled 8,344 consumers between May 3-10.

According to the survey:
  • $2.1 billion will be spent on activities such as golfing, dining out or the movies;
  • $1.4 billion toward gift cards;
  • $1.4 billion on clothing;
  • $1.4 billion on tools and appliances;
  • $1.3 billion on electronics;
  • $653 million on sporting goods;
  • $593 million on automotive accessories.

Still, it's no Mother's Day, on which Americans on average will spend $140.73, the NRF says.

Consumers will be hitting stores and e-commerce sites, according to the NRF survey, spending as follows:
  • 35.2% at a department store;
  • 32.2% at a discount store;
  • 26.9% at a specialty store;
  • 22.1% online;
  • 8.9% at a specialty clothing store.

>>>Retailers Fail To Cash In on Father's Day

Small businesses can get a leg up.

John Nolan, President of Core Marketing Agency and an adjunct professor of marketing at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business, says businesses should:
  • Offer an array of unique merchandise that would appeal to dads (think outside the box);
  • Develop a high level of familiarity with customers;
  • Be resolute in making service remarkable, establishing loyalty.

Even small businesses that have not already captured customers have time to do so via email blasts to established lists and via blog entries, Twitter and Facebook offers. (Storefront banners also work, Nolan adds.)

Baby boomer men are using and adopting technology to connect to their adult children, and small companies can leverage this by using their personal connections and authenticity, says Shauna Axton, strategic planning director for advertising firm Saatchi LA.

"The view is boomers are not tech savvy, when the reality is they really caught up. They're using Facebook and other technologies via their iPads almost as much as younger generations," she says. Since research finds boomers are using Facebook to connect with their family, tailor advertising to that, Axton says.

"Larger companies are exploring, but not necessarily being really fast to switch their advertising to these new platforms," she says.

Ben Kirshner, CEO of digital marketing agency Elite SEM and owner of CoffeeForLess.com, an online coffee distributor and e-commerce site for Coffee Serve, says any holiday is a potential boon for revenue.

To participate though, you have to have promotions unique and different enough to draw in customers. "People expect discounts. You have to offer something about you to the consumer, because there's too many other places that are offering discounts and promotions," he says. "The only time they'll go to a smaller player is if it's a better value."

To draw customers in, create a specific Father's Day landing page for your website that leads customers to a Father's Day section, or target specific audiences through Facebook.

"You might not want to advertise the Rolex watch to the kid, but to the wife," Kirshner says. "Small guys can be a little bit more flexible in that by being nimble they can try things and experiment."

Kirshner also suggests negotiating with vendors and manufacturers to get price breaks on items bought in bulk.

"We went back to manufacturers and asked for a one-time exception to move extra products," he says. The company was able to maintain their margins by offering discounts to customers and getting price breaks from vendors.

Playing up your niche can be especially effective during holidays.

"For us, Father's Day is like a second Christmas," says Alan Au, whose father started Jimmy Au's for Men 5'8" and Under. "There's an actual draw to come in and buy something."

The specialty store labels itself as the only short men's designer in the U.S. The store began by targeting jockeys and now caters to shorter men in entertainment and Hollywood.

Even with a niche, Au suggests that small-business owners experiment to find new ways of getting customers in the door. He prefers to "celebrate" some of the more unusual holidays, like National Doughnut Day, for instance.

"How much does it cost to bring in a few dozen doughnuts into the store? It makes it more fun to get customers in," Au says.

Ultimately, though, it's customer service that gets them coming back.

"A promotion without a theme is boring, and I'm not convinced the discount alone is the draw to people coming in," Au says. "I know what most of my customers do for a living. I know their spouses' names. I try to gather what I can in natural conversation."

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to: http://twitter.com/#!/LKulikowski

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