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Merchandising for Gift Sales

By Micah Cheek

Jill Foucré, Owner of Marcel’s Culinary Experience, has a tried-and-true strategy for last-minute gift sales. She has arranged the front of her store to be accessible to customers running in for a quick hostess gift or holiday item. “We do a ton of walking in and not knowing what [they’re] looking for,” says Foucré. “We have an array of products that cover an array of price points. If you come in and say, ‘I want to do something super special,’ we can cover that too.”

Marcel’s specializes in arranging little collections of two or three items arranged by theme. A food product like artisan dried pasta or a spice blend can make a nice centerpiece for some small items. “I love really great quality food products, [like] a really nice olive oil. Not so much a bottle of wine, but something I would cook with. Something you wouldn’t buy for yourself,” says Foucré. “We also have things like salt boxes – we’ll do that with a nice salt, or a mill. We have a lot of cocktail accessories, and we’ve got some really fantastic bitters that we can build into a cocktail thing.”

For folks who don’t know what they are looking for, Foucré recommends having some go-to items to recommend. “One of the things we always tell our staff is, ‘Always have three or four things in mind.’ I don’t want the staff there hemming and hawing. Because we carry a lot of local artists and food, we really try to be unique,” says Foucré. Handmade or unusual items are good suggestions, because it lowers the chance of the gift receiver getting multiples of the same gift. Handmade serveware has that individual look, and also makes itself a handy container for other items. “We carry a lot of different ceramic bowls – some of them are dipping dishes, some of them are ice cream bowl-sized – and we do tons of stuff with those. We’ll take a bowl, we’ll put in maybe a salt or herb blend and an olive oil, or something like that. Those tend to be very popular,” says Foucré. “The vessel will be part of what they bought. It they’re doing a baking thing, a glass bowl becomes part of the gift.” Bowls from ceramic companies like Carmel Ceramica can make a statement. Inspired by the beautiful gardens seen over Carmel, their porcelain Flower Garden collection has a hand-carved design and is safe for use in both dishwashers and microwaves.

Having a range of seasonal items available is an easy way to supply this need during the holiday season. “I love seasonal things. I love the things that you put away and bring out again,” says Foucré. “We generally have a very good selection of seasonal home décor things.” Even seasonal items aren’t needed, something printed with a statement shows that the consumer put some thought into what the receiver likes. “We have a lot of kitchen towels that aren’t seasonal,” says Foucré. “ellembee, they do towels with saying on them, and we sell literally hundreds of those. When you’re going to your book group and want to bring a little something, they’re great and a little irreverent.”

Candles on their own can seem like bland gifts, but a little something extra can make them special. “We sell a lot of scented candles in jars. We have them from a company called Lasco, Detroit Rose, we have a lot of different kinds that are great for hostess gifts,” says Foucré. “They can be a standalone, and we have a lot of fun matches we can sell them. Skeem [Design] sells some pretty matches in jars, we almost always will sell them.” Skeem Designs has matches in multiple colors and designs, packaged in tins and jars with different symbols and sayings on them. Some sets even have lines of poetry printed on the individual match sticks.

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