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10 Ways To Be A Better Holiday Merchandiser Than Santa Claus

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail


Welcome to the newest post in our blog series, Darren’s Great Ideas! for Independent Operators

10 Ways To Be A Better Holiday Merchandiser Than Santa Claus


Yep, the summer drive is not even over and I am beginning to see holiday themes, gifts and toys popping up in big retail. Recently, on a trip overseas, I saw early signs of Christmas shopping at two of England’s landmark retail operations.

So what does that say about your operation?

Do you need to have Santa Claus, Rudolph, and a Christmas tree displays up now? Certainly not, but I hope that you have a plan in place to take advantage of the upcoming holiday season. 

(NATSO truckstop and travel plaza members will share how they plan to capitalize on holiday sales and additional traffic during this month's Operational Exchange call. Limited to 15 operators, the call will take place on Thursday, August 13 at 11:00 a.m. EDT, 10:00 a.m. CDT, 9:00 a.m. MDT and 8:00 a.m. PDT. Join them in this best practice sharing by registering online or by emailing

Let’s cover a host of items you should have in place already.

  1. You have noted on your calendar when your holiday shipments, winter additives and fourth quarter product will be arriving. You have made sure that your staffing needs are appropriately deployed to get this merchandise properly checked in, properly priced and properly displayed as soon as it arrives. 

  2. You have outlined or will shortly outline a fourth quarter, seasonal and holiday employee work schedule that ensures that all requests for days off have been captured. It should include the appropriate adjustment for the increased scheduling needs as customer counts WILL increase. (See Ten Tips for Scheduling Staff at a Truckstop for a refresher in truckstop staffing best practices.)

  3. You plan on avoiding arbitrary mark downs and promotions. Think about what you plan on promoting. For example, do you really need to promote windshield wash in the dead of winter? (See Plan Now for Your Winter Sales Drive for refresher on winter merchandising.)

  4. You have created a mark down schedule for your holiday, seasonal and fourth quarter products, that includes when they go on sale and when they go off sale. You do not want to be selling jackets at full price on January 1st in Florida.

  5. You have created the appropriate mark down cadence that will move all your holiday and Christmas themed merchandise out of your store by January. Marking down these types of merchandise after Christmas will only prolong the pain. You will not sell holiday-themed Reese Peanut Butter cups in April!

  6. You have completed or will complete a break even analysis on your promotional products, specifically those holiday themed and Christmas specific merchandise. There is a reason the retail world calls Black Friday… Black Friday, it is time to make some money!

  7. You understand what last year’s sales were and you have created a goal to exceed them and you have plans to share the goal with staff ensuring you will exceed them.

  8. Additionally, you understand the impact all these sales will have on your profitability.  

  9. You have prepared appropriate window dressings, music, smells, sights and other sounds to bring the excitement of the season to your operation. And, no don't put out a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, make it count. (Petro Travel Store #353 in Portage, Wisconsin and Joplin 44 Petro in Joplin, Missouri do a good job of this.)

  10. Lastly, you have some fun events scheduled for the local community and your core customers, the over-the-road driver. Examples include One Day Sales, Friends and Family Events, girl scout cookies, cupcakes, brownies and smells and tastes of the season.

See also:

/// Read more Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators posts here.


*Open to all NATSO truckstop and travel plaza members, NATSO Operational Exchange monthly calls provide a forum for operators to discuss operational questions and connect with peers on a single topic.

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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.