Drive Holiday Sales With a Men's Panic Party

by Susan Johnston

2 min read

Male shoppers are notorious for waiting until the last minute to buy holiday gifts. Savvy jewelers and other retailers can turn this habit into sales — and help men choose the perfect gift for their spouses or partners — by hosting a men’s panic party.

For example, Elyse Fine Jewelers in Reading, Mass., is preparing for its third men’s panic party on December 19, the Thursday before Christmas. Earlier in the month, the store hosts Wish List Wednesday, a cocktail reception during which women are invited to browse its jewelry and choose their favorite pieces.

“When the guy comes in, we know what the wife wanted,” owner Richard Berberian explains.

Bella Mia, a women’s clothing retailer in Plymouth, Mich., takes a slightly different approach. Retailers in the downtown area sponsor a joint men’s panic party, so that last-minute shoppers can wander from store to store on the same night. Last year, instead of asking their significant others to provide a wish list, Bella Mia sold the men discounted gift cards ($80 for a $100 gift card), so their other halves could choose items later.

“All our merchandise goes out the door wrapped for the holidays. Our male customers are delighted by the fact that that’s how we send our gift cards home, so they don’t have to do anything,” general manager Sarah Stobbe says.

Want to host a men’s panic party of your own? Here are a few tips.

Cross-promote. Marketing a men’s panic party can be challenging for retailers whose email lists and customer bases are dominated by women. At Bella Mia, store employees encourage each female customer to take home a printed flyer and share it with the man in her life.

“It’s easier for [the women] to have something tactile [to share with the men],” Stobbe says. The store may also distribute flyers at a nearby bar that appeals to men. “The fact that all of the businesses down here do it is a benefit for us, because then it becomes a door-to-door event.”

However, don’t start promoting too far in advance or men are likely to forget. Stobbe suggests getting the word out about two weeks in advance.

Make the event “manly.” A cutesy flyer probably isn’t going to entice many male customers. At Elyse Fine Jewelers, Berberian invites two celebrity hosts, often Miss Massachusetts USA and a sports personality from Comcast SportsNet. He also brings in shrimp cocktail from a local seafood restaurant and hosts a Scotch tasting.

“You have a sports person, you have a gorgeous beauty queen, Scotch, and shrimp cocktail — and that’s generally enough to bring guys in,” he says. He estimates that men’s panic parties in the past have attracted up to 60 people a pop, and virtually everyone who attends buys something.

Enlist extra staff. For any event that’s likely to get an influx of customers, it’s a good idea to schedule extra employees and to make sure they understand the purpose of the event. Berberian even contracts outside waitstaff and a cleaning crew to pick up glasses and napkins during the party.

“My staff is dedicated to taking care of the jewelry needs of the clients,” he says. “I don’t want to tie up my salespeople serving shrimp.”

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