How Lovepop “holidizes” their small business

The holiday season is a busy one for many small business owners. Whether you’re fighting to stay relevant or finding new ways to keep up with the demand, it might make sense for your small business to add holiday touches to your products, service, storefronts and marketing approaches this season.

Last week we spoke to Wombi Rose, one of the co-founders of Lovepop, a fast-growing greeting card company that creates blank cards with intricate 3D paper sculptures on the inside. We got insight into how Lovepop thrives during the holidays, how they intersperse holiday themes into their products and storefronts, and lower demand during their slower seasons.

Which is your busiest season, and when does it begin?

Christmastime is definitely our busiest season; roughly 50% of our business occurs between October and December. Since we’re growing so fast right now, it’s hard to pinpoint when that busy season starts, but usually it gets really crazy from November until right after Christmas.

How do you “holidize” your products and your storefront?

We do a mix of inventing new holiday designs every year and “holidizing” our current collections. Our new designs range from super fun to traditional—we have nativity scenes and gingerbread houses, but we’ll also do Santa Biker, Christmas Shark and Christmas Cactus.

We have a collection of bear designs, and now a growing collection of T-Rex designs, and we holidize both of those for the season. For example, swap out Dad T-Rex’s briefcase for a Santa hat to make him Christmas T-Rex. Every season we try to create something special and new, but we also try to create new things that are relevant outside of the holiday season as well so we get more longevity.

We have five semi-permanent locations in Boston, and people love our seasonal decorations. For example, we’ll do big sculptures (a nod towards our smaller sculpture in each card) of a pumpkin for Halloween or Christmas trees for Christmas. It’s funny because people always stop by and ask if we’re selling these massive decorations!

What was your most popular holiday design last year, and do you have a prediction for this year?

Last year our best seller was a Christmas tree with dangle-y ornaments in three different colors. This year, I predict either the Christmas candle or Santa train.

How do you change up your marketing for the holiday season?

We’re four times bigger this year than we were last year, so our marketing is growing. Our goal is to get out in front of more people and share what we’re doing, and we do a lot of that through partnerships. One partnership we’re excited about is Santa’s Flight Academy where, in 15 malls throughout the United States, they’ll essentially create a mini Disneyland where kids save Christmas, which we’re sponsoring. We continue to look out for big exposure opportunities to get our name out there. We’ll also mail out our new holiday collection to current customers and media.

What do you do in your slower seasons to keep up the growth?

Well, the blessing of being a seasonal business is that there is high seasonal demand, so you just have to put your product in front of your potential customers at the right place to get an advantage. But, for slower seasons, you need to smooth that out by finding demand that isn’t a seasonal opportunity. For us, that’s creating cards for birthdays and anniversaries, which are year round. We’ve also been building out our wedding component, which is less seasonal and we get those orders in advance, which is good for capacity issues.

The slow season is also a good time to focus on optimizing distribution channels, your products and getting more lead time on orders so you have some that you know you can fulfill for Christmas and March. We do this by hosting a Christmas in July event for our customers where we give a sneak peak of our upcoming holiday collection. We get those Christmas orders placed early, which is incredibly helpful for planning capacity.

You’ve seen such tremendous growth this past year! Do you have any expert advice to small business owners just starting out?

  1. Plan as early as possible. You have to really understand what the full range of scenarios look like and how you’ll react in each one. Specifically, know your scenarios in terms of demand by setting yourself up with dates and milestones to place reorders with enough lead time so you don’t end up in a bind, which leads me to…
  2. Know what your inventory levels are and always be thinking about production capacity. When we start seeing trends, we need to react quickly and create more inventory, but what’s the value of that inventory when the season is over? It’s a struggle every seasonal business has to face. We still haven’t fully solved for Christmas yet, because it’s the only season where those cards can be used, so we’ll always have working capital sitting idle. I recommend finding a good system for tracking inventory. You can either increase production capacity or inventory, but you can only go so far with both of those. You need to consciously decide up front if you’re more worried about sitting on unsold inventory or losing potential demand. It’s easy to worry about the unsold inventory, but if you go too far in that direction you can miss out on potential demand which is just as expensive in the long run—figure out your formulas and see where you want to be, best possible outcome.

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