Q: Every November we hold a holiday open house for our best customers. But we don’t have anything planned for January. Should we lay low while business is slow?
A: Good for you for doing a big event during the holiday season. As the old advertising adage goes, “you should sell peanuts while the circus is in town.” But that doesn’t mean that you should not have something special happening in your store during the slower months as well.
Keeping up an active calendar of events is especially important if you are taking advantage of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and are using an email list of your customers to send them regular newsletters. All of these inexpensive advertising media require that you come up with something newsworthy on a regular basis.
Happily, since it costs little or nothing to publicize store happenings through these social media, together with in-store signage and postings on your store web site, you can put together low cost events frequently. Not having to pay for costly print advertising, invitations, etc., takes a lot of the risk out of event planning.
The most clichéd store “happening” is a sale, and with all the discounting around us every day, a sale is not likely to generate much buzz. But new arrivals are always worth highlighting, especially if you get in a quantity of merchandise from one source. The store next to ours is hosting a trunk show to show its latest imports from Mexico, and the big banner in the store’s window is capturing a lot of attention.
You might ask one of your sales reps to help you host a trunk show, bringing in merchandise beyond your usual stock of their line that can be sold on consignment during the event. Sales reps are also sometimes willing to partner with their best accounts to do product demonstrations at no cost to the store.
A book signing is another inexpensive promotion, especially if you are able to buy the books on a returnable basis. Many publishers will do this for special events. We recently hosted a book signing by former employee Micaela Preston, whose book Practically Green: Your Guide to Ecofriendly Decision-Making features crafts and foods for the whole family. Micaela brought samples and helped spread the word about our event through her own blog and social networking.
If you do an event offering a portion of your sales to a local non-profit, you can expect the beneficiary organization to help with publicity. Be sure to send out press releases to your local media when you plan something to benefit your community. Free publicity is the best kind of advertising!
Get 2010 off to a good start by creating lots of reasons to be present in your customers’ lives on a regular basis.
About the Author:
Carol L. Schroeder is the author of Specialty Shop Retailing: Everything You Need to Know to Run Your Own Store, published by John Wiley & Sons. Her blog appears on www.giftsanddec.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column first appered in the January issue of Gifts & Decorative Accessories and is reprinted with permission.