The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday spending will reach record levels during November and December, increasing between 3% and 4% over 2022’s spending. Truck stop and travel center operators can tap into the trend to help capture additional sales as 2023 comes to a close while also spreading holiday cheer to customers and their employees.
“It is not surprising to see holiday sales growth returning to pre-pandemic levels,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Overall household finances remain in good shape and will continue to support the consumer’s ability to spend.”
NRF estimates that consumers plan to spend $875 on core holiday items, including gifts, decorations, food and other holiday-related purchases this year.
Holiday Promotionals and Season Items Do Well at Travel Centers
Darren Schulte, vice president of membership for NATSO, said drivers often look for fun and unique gift items when they stop at a NATSO member location. Holiday promotions and seasonal items can do well. Trail's Travel Center in Albert Lea, Minnesota, for example, has created beautiful displays to take advantage of seasonal opportunities.
Embracing the Holidays is Fun for Customers and Employees
Embracing holiday fun can help set businesses apart and bring joy to customers and employees. “Now more than ever, we need to have fun,” Schulte said. “There are small, inexpensive things you can do during the holiday season to put smiles on peoples’ faces.”
Consider a Small Holiday Giveaway
Schulte said giving away a candy cane, hot chocolate or cup of coffee is an inexpensive way to show appreciation for drivers and cultivate cheer during the holiday season. He added that most locations have less than 100 heavy-duty trucks or less come through each day during the work week. “It is an easy way to warm a heart,” he said.
Spread the Cheer in Small Ways
“Look at your over-the-road customer count and do something like take a cupcake out to the driver. Or buy 50, $1 lottery tickets and ask drivers if they’ve been good or bad,” Schulte said. “If they’ve been good, give them a lotto ticket. If they’ve been bad, give them a bag of coal—charcoal briquettes in a brown bag. Either way, you will put a big smile on your customers' face”.
Creates Goody Bags for Drivers
Damon Borden, operations manager for Broadway Flying J Travel Plazas, said the company’s location in Ellensburg, Washington, goes over the top and creates goody bags for drivers. “They pick up items at trade shows and different grocery items and always have something for the drivers,” Borden said. “The drivers love it.”
Have a Sweater Day or Cookie Decorating Contest
Broadway Flying J locations also have holiday sweater days and a cookie decorating contest that drivers judge. “There are all kinds of fun things different locations do,” Borden said.
Use Social Media to Spread Your Holiday Cheer
In addition to letting everyone have some fun, Schulte said locations could garner some attention on social media, which can also be good for business.
Are you looking for more holiday inspiration? Check out these posts:
- Seven Tips for Tapping Into Holiday Sales at Your Truck Stop;
- How to Take Advantage of Holiday Traffic at Your Truck Stop; and
- Create a Specific, Measurable, Realistic Holiday Action Plan for Your Truckstop.
// This article was created for Stop Watch magazine, the magazine of the NATSO Foundation. The NATSO Foundation is the research, education and public outreach subsidiary of NATSO, Inc. The NATSO Foundation provides programs and products to strengthen travel plazas’ ability to meet the traveling public's needs through improved operational performance and business planning. Visit www.natsofoundation.org for more information. (Donate to the NATSO Foundation here.)
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