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Seems to me the Christmas decorations have come out earlier than ever this year, weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday. No complaints, though. After all, this has been a tough year — sales slow, unemployment high, credit still tight and the rancor in Washington never ends.

Christmas cheer, then, offers a welcome break from all that and more. Someone once joked: “Why do we have Thanksgiving Day?” Answer: “So we’ll know when to start Christmas shopping.” Oh, hail Black Friday! But the season offers an excellent merchandising opportunity, call it Santa Selling, for aggressive dealers who want to capitalize on the predicted increase in Christmas spending this year.

This is a chance to have fun and be creative. How about a “Twelve Days of Christmas Sale” in December. It might mean selecting 12 different gift items. Offer one each day as your “dock rocker” at a truly special price. Or offer all 12 for 12 days. I speak from experience — you’d be amazed at how helpful our dealer is when my wife is out to get her captain that gift I’ll just love! She also spends some time at the local bait shop, getting directed to the latest tackle for me. Ah, I do love Christmas.

Perhaps a one-day “Customer’s Christmas Gift Party” would be more your preference. Hold it on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon before Christmas. Make it fun. Throw in a few door prizes. Feature a variety of gift ideas. Stir in some party atmosphere — eggnog, carols, candy canes, Santa. After all, ’tis the season to be jolly.

No need to spend a lot of money advertising, either. Use your e-mail customer and prospect lists. If you are also into using social media, give ’em a tweet. Tell them they no longer have to wander aimlessly, hoping to find a great gift for their special boater on their list — you already have it for them! And always offer gift cards or, in lieu of cards, a gift account certificate that will allow the recipient to pick out his or her “I-always-wanted-that” item later. Hey, remind them you’re really saving them from getting frustrated with long lines and rude crowds at the mall.

Marketing experts will tell you every major holiday provides a basis for some timely merchandising and sales. Of them all, however, Christmas is the largest, resulting in the most retail spending, and worth the extra effort.

Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving!

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