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Exclusive Q&A: How Michaels stays ahead of holiday planning

Michaels holiday 2023
Michaels carefully creates its holiday merchandising plan.

The Michaels Companies follows a multi-pronged strategy to ensure its holiday merchandising is on target.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Melissa Mills, senior VP and general merchandising manager at Michaels, about how the major North American specialty arts & crafts retailer has been getting ready for the 2023 holiday season. She described how Michaels, which has been pursuing a variety of digitally-oriented initiatives in the past couple of years, tracks what holiday shoppers want and how to get it to them.

What unique challenges does the upcoming holiday season pose to Michaels? 

The retail industry as a whole has been keeping a close eye on the economic environment and shifting consumer spending habits. We need to ensure that our customers feel value in every transaction, and that we’re providing them the right sales and offers to maximize their trips and get everything they need within their budget.

We are also making it a priority to keep popular products in stock. Our most popular items sell-through quickly, and since we want our customers to have access to what they are looking for when they are looking for it; we are identifying ways to ensure these products are restocked quickly.

When did you start preparing for the 2023 holiday season, and what were the first steps? 

When it comes to preparing our holiday assortments, the first step is always taking a look at our historical data and future trend forecasts so we are staying ahead of the curve on the latest products, projects, and materials our customers are seeking. Michaels typically begin planning our seasonal merchandise over a year in advance. We are already forecasting trends for 2025 as we speak.

How does Michaels handle merchandising for a typical holiday season? 

We know that decorating is one of our customers’ favorite ways to get creative during the holidays, so we focus on releasing trend-forward collections. We anticipate what projects and materials our customers will want, as well as décor trends that then translate into the stories told by our seasonal collections.

After we determine the trends that will pop in the upcoming season, we move on to product development and sourcing. After developing the assortment, we receive samples to set our model stores and determine the best way to tell each story to our customers in store and through our marketing so that they feel inspired and ready to express their creativity this season. 

Our seasonal assortments set in waves, with trees, garland, ornaments and floral leading in September followed by décor in October, and a continued roll of seasonal products for DIY categories like baking, party planning, giftwrapping, and card making rolling out through early November.

What technology solutions do you use? 

We are continuously working to enhance our in-store experience for customers to make shopping at Michaels easier than ever, especially when they are looking to save time during the busy holiday season. 

Our tech team has developed state-of-the-art self-checkout machines that are simple and easy to use. The self-checkout experience was developed, coded and designed in-house with the intent of making the machines as intuitive as possible.

Michaels also offers buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup options so our customers can stock up on everything they need for the holidays without even leaving their car. 

Do you see any new merchandising trends developing for 2024?

Our customers love homemade gifting, and this year we expect to see them lean even more into DIY for the holidays as a way to put a personal touch on gifting without breaking the bank.

We’re stocking up to support trends like card-making and holiday baking, and weaving in modern twists on classic icons, such as disco meets holiday, which inspired our ‘Oh What Fun’ collection. We have also seen customers incorporating more pastels into their seasonal décor as well as elevated holiday aesthetics like all white with accents of sparkle, holiday ‘cottagecore’ and more.  

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