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Sales figures for Christmas seem to be mixed, even among the majors.  Black Friday ushered in the shopping season with a bang, but according to an article from Reuters, the final figure for December sales were pretty anemic. 


Well, small business, don’t panic because the next four months belongs to you.  The line up of  occasions and events provides a continual stream of opportunities that don’t end until mid or late May—first Valentine’s Day, then Mardi Gras, proms, weddings, pageant, dance competition, Easter, Mothers Day, spring fashion, hats for church and derby day—and I am sure we left some events out.  The next few blogs are going to highlight the opportunities in all these events for small business. 



 Mardi Gras is an ever expanding celebration that is absolutely huge in some areas.  New Orleans calls it “The Greatest Free Show on Earth”.  It first came to America through the Louisiana territory when Bienville explored the Mississippi in 1699.  On Mardi Gras Day he camped on a point near the mouth of the Mississippi River that is still called Mardi Gras point today.   

Mardi Gras items

 Dating back to the Renaissance, the official beginning of the Mardi Gras season is the Feast of the Epiphany that traditionally falls on January 6.  This closes the Christmas season and opens the Carnival season that continues until Mardi Gras Day, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.   

 For retailers in many parts of the country, this is a season they look forward to because the shopping destination for Mardi Gras merchandise is almost exclusively small business.  What do shoppers buy? 



Mardi Gras pin

Soon after the season opens, the spirit begins to spread with Mardi Gras music playing on the radio and ladies donning Mardi Gras jewelry—pins, earrings, bracelets, and sometimes necklaces.  But the runaway most popular jewelry item that really spreads the spirit is Mardi Gras pins


What are the most popular themes in Mardi Gras pins?  Jesters, masks, comedy and tragedy, and crowns make up the majority of Mardi Gras pins.  Almost always in Mardi Gras colors, this jewelry is important to gift and apparel shops for customers that want to enjoy the spirit as well as those that need favors. 


small Mardi Gras dolls

Carnival clubs that provide the Mardi Gras parades and completely foot the bill are called “Krewes”.  Many have formal balls before the parades roll.  For many Krewes, favors are part of the celebration.  Small dolls and jester head ornaments and magnets rank among the most popular favors.  The same items do well in gift shops for souvenirs. 


Small dolls normally have glazed ceramic faces and hands and are dressed in jester outfits with sequin or shiny lame’ outfits in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green. 



Mardi Gras beads

Imaginative design has catapulted Mardi Gras beads into the forefront of party items over the last decade.  Of course gift shops need exceptional Mardi Gras beads to grab customers’ attention, but even the throws from floats have been moving up in quality.  An article from the New Orleans newspaper a few years ago had a title that tells the story — Throw Me Something Mista and it Better be Good.  


The majority of throw beads come out of a machine already molded on the string.  These are called MOT or molded on twine.  That doesn’t mean they are undesirable—no, large strands of MOT pearls are one of the most sought after beads thrown from a float. 


But it is beads with themes that make up what is called special throws.  These are the beads reserved by riders for someone they know in the crowd.  They are usually hand-strung and also rank as top sellers in gift shops. 


Resin or metallic components in the design create the themes that are endless, but South Louisiana themes like seafood, alligators, New Orleans, coffee and beignets, and oysters on the half shell are right at the top. 



Mardi Gras masks

Long before Mardi Gras came to America, it was a major celebration in Europe.  Masking was a big part of the revelry then as it is today.  Venice is famous for its Carnival masks and that subject will be covered in the next blog.  But today masks are major part of the celebration no matter where Mardi Gras is enjoyed.  And they can be extraordinary without being expensive. 


Mardi Gras feather masks have wholesale prices well under $5 and retail under $10 so everyone can enjoy them and take them home as souvenirs.  One design–a sequin mask with a spray of extraordinary feathers to one side tops the category year after year.  The masks have Mardi Gras colors and come with elastic bands to wear or sticks to hold.  Nearly every gift shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans will have masks as well as beads so bring the spirit to your area by including masks and treating customers to New Orleans Mardi Gras spirit. 


Mardi Gras novelty hats

There’s a lot of good-spirited craziness that goes with Mardi Gras and novelty hats give revelers the opportunity to express it.  What do you need in party hats?  First, everything in Mardi Gras colors fits in.  There are spike hats, dragon hats, jester hats, and mad hatters with dangling fringe.  Fro the girls, there are sequin tiaras in Mardi Gras colors, beaded or tinsel wigs, and headbands with crowns.  Actually, anything in crowns works for Mardi Gras novelty hats.  Let your customers get a little crazy by including a variety of Mardi Gras novelty hats and you can be sure they will be trying them on and drawing a crowd in your shop. 



Mardi Gras feather boas

Feather boas are simply irresistible for the ladies enjoying the celebration.  And boas in Mardi Gras colors will be at the top of the list.  This is a must for a festive atmosphere.  Since Mardi Gras only comes once a year, throw in some boas and let the party roll.


Cash in on Mardi Gras!  It’s a small business bonanza and it’s a lot of fun.

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