For many Americans, the dropping of the ball in Times Square symbolizes the end of the holiday season, and for retail workers, it also brings a sigh of relief and the beginning of (hopefully) less hectic days in their stores.
Unless you’re in Puerto Rico.
Jan. 6, known to Catholics as Three Kings Day, or El Día de los Reyes, recognizes the Three Wise Men’s visit of Jesus 12 days after his birth. The Three Kings, as they are also known, brought with them symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In Puerto Rico and parts of the American South and West, children can expect to receive gifts of their own on Three Kings Day – usually unwrapped toys.
Although children are told these gifts come from the Three Wise Men as they passed through for a visit, these gifts often come from Walgreens.
“I’ve been with Walgreens for more than three decades, and we’ve always been ready for Three Kings Day,” says Walesca Miranda, director of regional merchandising for the Western Division, overseeing Puerto Rico merchandising, and who lives and works in San Juan. “Certain stores in Puerto Rico sell more toys the night before Three Kings Day than they do on Christmas Eve.”
In fact, Miranda says, stores in Puerto Rico account for 6 to 10 percent of toy sales across all Walgreens stores, thanks in no small part to Three Kings Day.
“When we run our numbers at the end of the year to see how our toy business has done, we start on Black Friday and make sure to run them all the way through Jan. 6,” Miranda says. “There’s a consistently large number of sales that we can count on every year right up until that day.”
Team members at the Walgreens in Doramar Plaza, Dorado, Puerto Rico (left to right): Elvin Miranda, Rubén Dávila, Mara Rodríguez, Amaralis Rivera and Génesis García.
Tailoring a toy or product assortment for a specific regional holiday is nothing new for Walgreens. Robby Heller, director of profit recovery and regional merchandising, studies store demographic information in different U.S. markets. The regional merchandising team then partners with local suppliers on orders to make sure customers can get what they need at Walgreens, no matter what holiday they’re celebrating.
“In early December, we make sure stores in places like New York, Chicago, New Jersey and Arizona, for instance, have a good selection of Hanukkah-related merchandise available,” Heller says. “Early January is a time when we need to make sure we’re all set with our toy supply for Puerto Rico. And then in February, we have to make sure our New Orleans stores have got everything they need for Mardi Gras.”
Ads for Día de Reyes appear on Facebook (left) and in the local San Juan newspaper, Primera Hora.
Heller and Miranda agree it’s important to make sure products available at Walgreens stores reflect the local and regional holidays celebrated by their customers – and not just because it can lead to more sales. Miranda says having Three Kings Day imagery in advertising and promotional materials also reinforces the idea that a customer’s local Walgreens is part of the community, celebrates the same holidays and is there to help the customer with their specific needs during those times.
This year, the team in Puerto Rico even has 120,000 custom-designed shoeboxes available to customers for free, in stores starting Jan. 3. Their purpose: to hold the grass children leave out to feed the camels the Three Kings ride, helping to ensure the Three Kings leave the gifts they want.
120,000 custom shoeboxes were distributed in Puerto Rico stores.
“Ever since Walgreens came to Puerto Rico 60 years ago, we’ve earned the reputation of being everyone’s neighborhood store,” says Miranda. “If you have a problem, you can solve it at Walgreens. So it’s important for customers to know they can come here for things like last-minute gifts for Three Kings Day.”
Because it’s unclear which stores are stocking the traditional gold, frankincense and myrrh as last-minute gifts, perhaps a Mandalorian-themed Squishmallow may have to do in the meantime.