Planning Retail Promotional Events

Retail Merchandising Opportunities

Two women shopping in a retail boutique during a special sidewalk sale event.

Vincent Besnault/  Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

Have you ever shopped in a store that was dull and boring? You may not even recall the name of the shop because it was simply that uninteresting. As a retailer, you don't want your store to become one of those lackluster shopping experiences. In a recent study, I found that customers were more concerned about the experience in the store than the price! They preferred in-store shopping, but shopped online because the experience in the store was not worth the drive,

A great way to avoid becoming mundane is by strategically planning promotional events for your retail store. Now, this isn't the twice-a-year markdown sale your store has when you place all the season's leftover items on a table and smack a "Reduced" sign on the front. No, what I'm referring to is a specially orchestrated promotion that can have a significant impact on product demand and sales. By planning several of these exciting events each year, you're giving customers a reason to return to the store on a regular basis.

Retail Promotion Tips

  • Choose a promotion that fits your industry, target audience, and goals.
  • Maintain a calendar of all planned and actual promotional events and promote it through your social media channels. 
  • Don't forget to include local community events in the planning.
  • Involve your employees. Let them create and take the lead in planning events. 
  • Try to schedule events three months in advance to create an effective promotion.
  • Create a folder for each event to maintain records and review the final results.
  • Increase your open-to-buy and purchase extra inventory for special events.

One thing that trips retailers up is thinking they need to plan around the national holidays. While this is part of a good strategy, it is not the strategy. You need excitement and energy in your store all the time, not just when Congress decides to declare a special holiday. For example, a friend of mine started an event in his store to honor his mom and dad (the founders of the store.) Each year, he invited other retailers in town to participate, and today, it is celebrated all over the country. In fact, you may have seen signs or read about National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day. So make your own holiday and celebrate it in your store. People love to celebrate. 

The key here is to have a plan, a calendar of events that you publicize through your social media channels. When you put it on a calendar, you can make sure you "smooth" out the events. For example, you might see that you have one event every weekend in June and only one in July. Spread them out, so there is a rhythm. And resist the urge to do one every single week. Too much promotion can wear your customers out.

Retail Promotional Calendar

The following is a list of some of the major U.S., Canadian, and U.K. holidays, observances, retail trends, seasonal events, and other happenings to help plan your store's retail merchandising.

Combine this information with your own marketing calendar for a powerful retail promotion tool.


  • Super Bowl
  • New Year's Eve
  • New Year's Resolutions
  • Martin Luther King
  • Back to School - Second Semester
  • Bank Holiday (UK)


  • Groundhog Day
  • Mardi Gras
  • President's Day
  • Valentine's Day
  • Daytona 500
  • February Sweeps for Television
  • Black History Month


  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Passover
  • Easter
  • First Day of Spring
  • March Madness
  • Academy Awards


  • Baseball Opening Day
  • Good Friday
  • April Fool's Day
  • Tax Day
  • Earth Day
  • Master's (Golf)
  • Prom


  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Mother's Day
  • Victoria Day (Canada)
  • Memorial Day
  • Spring Bank Holiday (UK)
  • Kentucky Derby
  • Season Finales for Television
  • Teacher Appreciation Week


  • Father's Day
  • Flag Day
  • Graduation / School's Out
  • First Day of Summer
  • U.S. Open (Golf)
  • Wimbledon (Tennis)


  • Canada Day
  • Independence Day
  • Summer Fun


  • Back to School
  • Tax-Free Sales Events
  • End of Summer


  • Labor Day
  • NFL Opens
  • First Day of Fall


  • Indigenous Peoples Day
  • World Series
  • Thanksgiving Day (Canada)
  • Red Ribbon Week
  • National Boss Day
  • National Book Month
  • Halloween


  • Election Day
  • Veteran's Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Black Friday (Busiest Shopping Day)
  • November Sweeps for Television
  • Winter Sports


  • First Day of Winter
  • Christmas
  • Boxing Day
  • End of Year

Declare Your Own

If you still can't think of a great tie-in promotion for any of the above events, consider declaring your own holiday or event. There are many unusual celebrations such as Humorists Are Artists Month (March) and Happiness Happens Month (August). These and 12,000 other listings can be found in a copy of Chase's Calendar of Events featuring special days, weeks and months as well as holidays, historical anniversaries and festivals. Don't let a marketing opportunity pass you by.