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The Party People - From Clown to Party Retail Leader

What is The Party People ?

The Party People is a party supplies retailer, the largest of its kind in Australia. We have over 25,000 party supplies including balloons, decorations, costumes, novelties, confectionary and more. The business primarily operates online although has one bricks and mortar store which is the largest physical party store in Australia.

The Current Landscape

The party retail category has suffered greatly from lockdowns and customer apprehension to have parties during the pandemic. As such we are seeing some consolidation of businesses. Many competitors still exist both online and offline but none are managing to do both quiet as well as The Party People.

Company Birth Story

30 years ago Mala Salakas was "Patches The Clown" catering for kids parties. Her passion for parties led her to start a small party store with her father Peter Nikolas. In 2007 her sons Dean (me) and Peter Salakas took over the family business so they could retire. At that time The Party People Shop had 2 employees in the shop. Today the business has over 40 employees, are the market leader for party supplies online in Australia and now have two bricks and mortar stores of which one of them is the largest bricks and mortar party store in Australia. We use to get teased at school because our mum was a clown and today we wear it with a badge of honor. The business launched online early in 1999 as Australia’s first online party store and continued to achieve online firsts by offering click and collect from the beginning, being Googles first Australian Adwords customer, being Microsoft Bin gs first Australian advertiser among other first including piloting Facebooks accelerator program. I helped my mum with the online business while at high school and university and did my final year thesis on the business which led to major changes and an acceleration in growth. When Peter and I took over in 2007, we drove the businesses digital strategy which has made it the success it is today. We have also focused on building a great store experience which is why the Australian Retail Association recently named us as the Independent Retailer of The Year and the Online Retailer of the year. I was also personally named Retail Leader of the Year. The business also appeared on Shark Tank Australia where we received a $400,000 offer from Janine Allis which we turned down and today are preparing to create a chain of party stores in Australia so that every Australian can create their dream party. Recently we have won a host of retail industry awards including Online Retailer Of the Year, Independant Retailer Of The Year, Retail Leader Of The Year, Store Manager Of The Year, Innovative Retailer Of The Year, Pop Up Of the Year and more.

A Customer Story

The past 18 months has been significantly effected by COVID19 with parties being illegal or at least politically insensitive due to current health risks. Unfortunately most party stores have been decimated. While sales were down by 92% in March 2020, The Party People spoke to the few customers they did have to find out what they were buying as parties were illegal at the time. The answer helped us create a “Coronavirus Survival” category which we made the main banner on our homepage. This category had 4 subcategories Coronavirus Safety & Hygiene, Things To Do At Home, Baking and Gifts.

The Baking and Things To Do at Home categories where product we already stocked but were relevant to the customer as ideas for ways to deal with isolation. The Gifts category was split into Balloons (which it did currently) and Hampers which had Easter Show bags sourced through a joint venture with a show bag provider struggling to move their bags due to cancellation of the show. The Party People sourced a supply chain of Hand Sanitizer and Masks in March and was early to retail the product when most could not source supply or manufacture it fast enough. Sanitizer became our best selling product.

The final results of this innovative adjustment in business model focusing on servicing people in a COVID19 environment rather than events helped The Party People thrive in an otherwise fatal event for the business.

The net result was the business bouncing pack to achieve a 14% increase in sales compared to prior 2019 which is phenomenal given issues with logistics, supply and COVID19 where restrictions have limited the events that can happen and so in theory we expected a drop in sales. More importantly The Party People helped customers through a difficult time with the challenges they faced at home which build brand awareness and loyalty.

The Team Culture

The Party People is a party store and we leverage that to have fun. We celebrate most events at work with dress ups, bbq’s and more from Christmas to Elvis Day.

A Founder Quote

Change creates opportunity. When the pandemic hit, we continued to lean on this principle and found a way through what should have been a very difficult time.

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