Christmas is just around the corner and the Christmas shopping season is in full swing. As stores around the world churn out gifts and decorations left, right and centre, we take a look behind the scenes at a shop where it’s Christmas every day of the year.
Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan, covers some 27 acres. More than 50,000 decorations and gifts are available to buy year-round, and during the Christmas season, it’s a haven for fans of the festive period.
The store is open all year and, as you would expect, preparations for Christmas start a long way in advance. Bronner’s team of buyers often begin the process of researching new products and identifying trends in the marketplace more than a year ahead of time.
Sandra Schafsnitz, Salesroom Merchandise Manager, explains:
“We actually start watching what is selling during the current fourth quarter (of the previous year) and consider expanding some of the better sellers. We see what the colour trends are during our Asian trip in October and then the Atlanta, Georgia, show in January.
“We still do best with traditional Christmas colours and try to introduce new and fresh ideas based on our suppliers’ advice or our past experience with certain themes or trendy products. A case in point is the Despicable Me or Frozen products that are so popular due to the popularity of the films.”
Bronner’s has a workforce of around 250 throughout the year, a number that swells to around 750 during the busy Christmas season. The majority are local to Frankenmuth, living within a 30 mile radius of the store itself. It will be of no surprise at all that many of the staff are skilled professionals.
Lori Libka, Communications Assistant, explains that a lot of the ornaments sold in the store are actually exclusives that are designed in-house.
“Our artists, Connie Larsen and Shannon McGinnis, work with our ornament design committee to create the designs. Many of those designs are sent to an ornament manufacturer in Hungary that Bronner’s has worked with for many years; some are sent to an Asian ornament manufacturer for completion.”
Such an expansive product range cannot be designed entirely in-house though, and products are sourced and shipped from across the globe to ensure Bronner’s maintains a rich and diverse choice of Christmassy product.
“We do bring in many containers from European and Asian suppliers as well as suppliers that are in the USA and offer a vast variety of products.” Says Sandra (Salesroom Merchandise Manager).
“We try to limit our one-item, one-supplier ordering to keep SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit) under control as well as our supplier base. We do order what we can that is USA- made if at all possible. We have a local supplier that makes wooden stables for us that we order year-round, as well as ornaments that are handcrafted or unique and available at a reasonable price.
“We look for good quality and packaging when selecting products. The suppliers we look for offer early shipping; complete shipping; and ease of correspondence and claims or returns of damaged goods. We place multiple purchase orders from the various classes of product in each of the departments our team of buyers are responsible for.“
With so many great products and attractions, marketing Bronner’s is key. The rich heritage of the business means it is already well-known and attracts millions of visitors each year, but on-going promotion remains important.
Along with a rich website, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland also use billboards in the US to promote their business.
Lori Libka said: “Our late originator, Wally Bronner, was initially a sign painter and displayer so billboards were a natural fit to the Christmas business for him.
“Most of Bronner’s billboards are in Michigan and other Midwest states; one is near Ocala, Florida.
“For the most part, they are placed on major highways within driveable distances from which guests are coming. Since travellers passing in a car have only a matter of seconds to view a billboard, we keep the art and message simple. Our business name, website and logo are the most important pieces of information to include.
“The billboard is designed here by one of our artists, Connie Larsen. She often uses her own original art and sometimes uses purchased art. A year or two ago we began sharing advertising space in the holiday season on a digital billboard in our area with our local visitors bureau.”