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Organize a Record-Breaking Holiday Sale! (Even If COVID Has You Locked Down)

by Michael A. Perri Jr.


This year has been one for the ages, with the wildfires, hurricanes, riots, a polarized country and, of course, the global pandemic. Many businesses have been so severely impacted that they’ve been forced to shut their doors for good. This includes some of our fellow martial arts professionals, people who were making a career out of sharing their passion. Although we’ve suffered setbacks, our industry still boasts people who are not only surviving but thriving. Schools that had the systems in place have managed to pull out record months financially regardless of the trials and tribulations they faced.

I’m talking about schools like Caleb and Heidi Collier’s Championship Martial Arts in Kaysville, Utah, where they took the systems and strategies of CMA’s Holiday Event and applied it to their “Christmas in July Sale.” It transformed what was regarded as a slow time of year into one of their most profitable months ever —in the middle of a pandemic!

You may be asking yourself, “How could they have had that kind of success with all the obstacles we’re facing?” The answer boils down to what Dave Kovar said on an episode of The Metzger/Tassoul Show: “Find a freakin’ way!”

That’s what the Colliers and many other school owners did with a little help from the Championship Martial Arts tried-and-true system. This article will revisit some of the finer points of hosting a successful Holiday Event and offer some tips on how to approach it in a socially distanced environment.

Regardless of what’s going on in our world, we have the ability to take a four-hour period and turn it into a profit-generating, retention-increasing, feel-good event that will make an impact on your life and your students’ lives for years to come. The great thing is that whether your event is live and in-person or virtual and socially distanced, the concepts and strategies stay the same (minus a tweak here and there). Let’s look at some of the steps to Holiday Event success I wrote about last year.


Out With the Old, In With the New

The old standard used to be that there were two times of year you knew your school would have to brace itself for a struggle. One was the middle of summer, and the other was the holidays in December. How could a martial arts school compete with the winter’s cold, holiday parties and the excitement of presents? Through personal trials and errors and by learning from the successes and failures of others, the CMA team homed in on a system that followed an old adage: If you can’t beat them, join them.

Mike Metzger and Frank Silverman, the founders and co-owners of Championship Martial Arts Limited, not only own eight martial arts schools but also have 70 licensees throughout the United States and Canada. These schools decided to be a part of the CMA family so they could partake in a group of like-minded martial artists looking to make a positive impact in their communities through their lifelong dedication to the arts. In addition, they had a goal to refine the practices that allowed them to turn their passion into profit. Through the interaction of their licensees and the hundreds of martial arts schools for which they’ve consulted during the past 18 years, Metzger and Silverman created the ultimate system to make your holiday season a success.

The concept of the holiday sale was one of those systems that they knew needed to be tweaked to maximize its success. Instead of trying to compete with every other retailer out there, though, they turned the concept on its heels. They stopped referring to it as a sale in the first place. With this change in thinking, gone were the days of a holiday sale, and in came the idea of a Holiday Event. The notion of a “holiday event” gives every student and family member a reason to come to your school — to celebrate the season! This simple mental shift turned decently attended holiday sales into can’t-miss events. More bodies equaled more sales.


Retail Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Although retail is an important component of a Holiday Event, it’s only one element. To maximize your success, you must incorporate all five profit centers: new-member sales, upgrade-program sales, special events, retention and retail.

New-member and upgrade sales include any tuition, down payments or paid-in-fulls. Special-event sales include single events such as parent’s night outs, testing and private lessons, ideally packaging them so students can pay for multiple events at once. You should also package your retail to create a win-win for you and your members. You win because you get greater sales, and they win because they get to save big on things they want and need.

“You can’t stop there, though,” Metzger says. “There are three components to generating more revenue: more customers in attendance, more transactions per customer and more money per transaction.”

Once you realize that your Holiday Event’s success relies on multiple streams of revenue, you can begin focusing on getting as many people as possible to the event.


Make It a Can’t-Miss Event

This sale needs to be more than just that. It has to be the can’t-miss event of the year. Food, fun activities, prizes and giveaways will help generate the excitement you need to make yours well-attended. Don’t forget that great attendance is integral to your Holiday Event success. Below is a list of features you can include to help get more people to attend:

  • Set up a festive picture station in your school and have someone dress up like Santa. Take pictures of your students with Santa and post them on social media. You can even go as far as having both Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Another big hit is to have holiday photo ops with the instructors and students.
  • Have food and drinks for everyone. Bagels, donuts, pastries, coffee, orange juice, hot apple cider and hot cocoa are fan favorites. You can get creative here and make it a pot-luck event. Providing your attendees with a nice spread tends to keep them around longer because — let’s face it — who doesn’t love free food?
  • Create a sense of urgency by giving every student a Holiday Event envelope containing a special coupon that’s redeemable only at the event when an instructor opens it. Hand these envelopes out to your students at the end of class in the weeks leading up to the event. Your students and families will be itching to see what they get in their envelope. (If you’re a member, you can find this tool
  • Make sure your school feels festive. When students walk in, they should feel like they’re entering a world that’s different from the one they’re used to seeing. Lights, garlands and tinsel are a great start, but even tables with equipment can be decorated in a festive manner. Play holiday music throughout the day. You want people to feel good about being at your event.
  • To ensure that more people are engaged, hold a table-decorating contest. Have students form teams of two and assign them to a themed table for the event — for example, a table for sparring gear, a table for uniforms, a table for weapons, a table for upgrade programs and so on. You can provide them with materials for decorating, or they can bring their own. Order pizza for everyone to show your appreciation. The day of the event, your attendees can vote on which table is the best looking. The team that gains the most votes wins a $50 prize. That can be a gift card to the store of their choice or $25 cash for each person on the winning team.
  • An out-of-the-box idea that one of our schools did was make its event an ugly-sweater party, as well. The instructors dressed up in their ugliest holiday sweaters and invited their students and families to join in the fun. It’s an easy way for people to feel like they’re part of the team, to partake in the holiday fun and, most important, to have a reason to attend your Holiday Event.


Appointments You Set Will Equal Revenue You Get

Now that you’ve fostered the excitement needed to make people eager to come to your Holiday Event, it’s time to set revenue-generating appointments. These meetings represent your opportunity to have students save big on their tuition. Each appointment is important in your efforts to reach your goal of hosting a financially successful event. You will need to have available times every 15 minutes throughout the duration of the festivities.

Let students know that this will be the best savings opportunity of the year and that you would love to set a time to let them know how much they can save on their program. Don’t tell them the exact deal. Let each appointment know that you will decide the night before the event how much savings you’ll offer for the holidays. Plan for each appointment to last about 10 to 15 minutes. This should not be a high-pressure sale at all. You’re simply giving them an opportunity. If they decide not to take advantage of it, that’s OK.

This is why it is imperative to schedule a minimum of 16 appointments. That amounts to one appointment every 15 minutes for the duration of the four hours. If you have multiple people on hand, you can potentially double or even triple that number of appointments. The schools that have the most appointments end up with the greatest results.


Win/Win Solution: They Save and You Earn

The reason Holiday Events have proved so successful for CMA schools is everyone wins at the end of the day. The students, the families and the school all leave coming out on top. Because the biggest monetary investment students can make in a studio is their tuition, they appreciate the opportunity to save significantly. The Holiday Event that we offer is an additional 5 percent off their prepaid tuition plus a credit for them to use on non-tuition-related items at the event.

This works particularly well when upgrading students into higher-level programs such as a Black Belt Club or a Masters Club. At most of the CMA-licensed facilities, those programs are three years long. They can provide a large boost in cash flow at your event. Just think what you could do if you were to get 10 families to take advantage of the deal. For demonstration’s sake, let’s say each family paid $2,500. That would equate to $25,000 just in paid-in-full tuition, and that doesn’t include anything else you bring in at the event. Also, keep in mind that the average paid-in-full price is likely to be much more than that.

This same approach can be taken for members you want to renew in their current program. The only stipulation is that they will need to pay for either 18, 24 or 36 months up front to take advantage of the savings. When thinking renewals, it doesn’t need to be only members who are expiring in December, January or February. Anyone who wants to take advantage of the savings can do so regardless of their expiration date.

If you don’t have an upgrade program, you still can take advantage of this system. Give your customers the opportunity to save money on their program, as well. To do this, present the option to pay in full for 18, 24 or 36 months. By doing this, you will save them money and lock in their current program without any tuition increases. So whether you have only one training program or multiple programs, you can use this system to generate revenue from tuition.


Packaging Your Other Profit Centers

A large portion of your Holiday Event revenue will come from new students, upgrades and renewals, but you don’t want to rely solely on that for your success. Recognize that other profit centers such as retail and special events are just as important.

Even though I’ve hammered home the idea that a Holiday Event is more than just a retail blowout, you still need to maximize your retail sales. Aside from providing a set discount on merchandise, the best way to generate higher retail sales is by giving a greater markdown if customers purchase a package. This can take the form of sparring-gear packages, program-based training packages, weapons-training packages, home-training kits and so on. Your students and their families will be looking to find things to put under the tree for themselves or loved ones. Have these items on display so they can see and touch them.

You also want to package those things that fall into the special-event category of the five profit centers. Testing fees, camps, parent’s night outs, private lessons and birthday parties all belong in this category. Give a 10-percent discount if they prepay testing fees through black belt. Sell a special-event punch card that allows students to get 12 “parents night out” evenings or seminars for the price of nine. If you already sell private-lesson packages, sell them for a slight discount the day of your Holiday Event. The goal is to not only show and sell the benefit of these packages but also the value of buying the package.


Michael Perri is the COO of Championship Martial Arts Ltd. and MAIA Edge. A martial artist since 1987, he has a fifth-degree black belt in the CMA system, as well as a black belt in American kenpo and chito-ryu. To contact him, send email to [email protected].


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