A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
The Sales Potential in Proms and School Dancess
Rich and Georganne interview themselves on a
new retail sales opportunity.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (March 15, 2010)
(Note from Kizer & Bender: This article is a blast
from the past, but it's a good one. Sometimes we find the best ideas
in the most unlikely places. It's almost prom season so you'll be
able to put these ideas to use!)
Rich: So Georganne, why don't you tell everyone about your big
adventure on Saturday night?
Georganne: Do I have to?
Rich: (laughs) Yes, you have to.
Georganne: I was a chaperone at my son John's high school prom.
Rich: And how did John feel about that? What about you, was it
Georganne: John didn't care; I've been around his friends all of
his life. They knew I'd be a pretty lenient chaperone so they were
happy to see me. And even though I try and keep up on trends, I felt
old and out of it. But I had fun! It's amazing how you can blend in
when you're in a crowd. Things have sure changed since we were in
Rich: What do you mean?
Georganne: We looked good in high school but these kids looked
great. They were polished in ways we never were. I was talking about
this with a new teacher. Her jaw dropped when I told her we didn't
have personal hair dryers when I was in high school, unless you were
lucky enough to have one of these giant things you sat under, like
at the beauty shop. And since I usually see John and his friends in
a sports uniform or T-shirt and jeans, it was fun to see them all
And it was interesting to see how most of the boys' wore
something that coordinated with their dates outfits. The girls were
Rich: English, please. What's a HMU?
Georganne: HMU as in High Maintenance Unit. Every girl had been
coiffed, manicured, pedicured, accessorized, and dressed to the
nines. You know those $600 shoes I've been coveting at the Manolo
Blahnik store at the Wynn in Las Vegas? A freshman girl had them on.
I said, "Are those Manolo' s?" She said, "Yeah. No.
Target. $29.99." I picked up a pair on my way home from the
Rich: So according to how you think, you saved money on that
deal, and now you have $570 to spend on something else, right?
Rich: What opportunities for retailers did you think up during
your time at the homecoming dance?
Georganne: A lot. I actually took notes! There is big opportunity
if – and that's a big IF – you are willing to take a chance and
step outside of your comfort zone.
Rich: Comfort zones are a dangerous thing. Retailing is so
competitive, you have to be willing to try new things in your store.
Otherwise, you'll look like you're going backwards in a world that's
moving a hundred miles an hour into the future. Your competition
will leave you in the dust and your customers will leave you behind.
Georganne: Right. So here's where I think adventurous retailers
will see opportunity: most scrapbook, craft, and creative retailers
have class or crop rooms; why not put that space to a different use
for a few days during high school dance season?
Let's take prom, for example. You can host an all day "Primp
and Polish" event in your store. Begin by sending invitations
(with RSVP cards) to high school cheerleaders, pommies, sports
teams, and other club members. Ask your staff to help you come up
with this list. You can even ask customers to recommend your event
to their friends and families.
If you own a craft or fabric store then, you already sell many of
the things I saw at John's prom. And if you don't, you can easily
get them for your event.
Rich: What did you see?
Georganne: Tiaras and garters. Boutonnieres,
corsages, and wrist corsages made from both fresh and silk flowers.
Necklaces and bracelets made from all sorts of beads. Plain dresses
that had been embellished with paint, beads, sequins and more.
Evening bags that were handmade, or purchased, then personalized
with everything imaginable. The boys' ties became a different kind
of fashion accessory after the dancing began: they took them off and
wore them as headbands. Some of the girls wore them around their
waists. And many of the boys' ties were embellished to match their
Rich: I bet you saw flip-flops all over the place. According to
the Millennials in our focus groups, the high heels stay on long
enough for photos, then they are traded for flip-flops: America's
favorite shoe. I still can't believe that people pay hundreds of
dollars for designer flip-flops.
Georganne: Unless they're smart, then they buy the $3.99 version
and embellish them with things from their favorite craft store.
Rich: That's a class I'd hold all year long!
Georganne: Especially during school season. Almost every girl
came with her decorated flip-flops in hand. About an hour after the
dancing began, I saw heels lined up all along the walls.
Rich: So do you see this in-store event as one similar to a Girls
Georganne: Similar, only this involves multiple events and can
last for weeks at a time.
The first in-store event would occur a couple of weeks before the
school dance. That's when the girls would come in to create and/or
embellish their flip-flops, hand bags, make their jewelry and
accessories, and personalize their date's tie. If they want to give
a keepsake boutonniere
or corsage from silk flowers, they can make these too.
Rich: The host retailer should have available a list of things
the partygoers can create in their stores, along with project
sheets. Give the kids lots of choices and ideas, plus staff to help
out. And if you have a small store with a limited staff, you can
always ask your customers to help out. We know retailers who do this
all the time – and the customers are always happy to help.
Georganne: The second in-store event would be on the day of the
dance. Invite a couple of beauticians and nail techs to set up shop
in the class/crop room. The girls come in with clean hair and leave
with a new 'do. You can set appointments: while one girl is getting
her pedicure, another can be making her date's boutonniere
with fresh or silk flowers. You might even set aside a time when the
boys can stop in to make their dates corsage. The ideas are only
limited by your imagination! I'd even invite the press in for this
event. The local paper will probably send a reporter and a
Rich: If you have several high schools in your community you
could position your store as school dance central. You'll connect
with new customers at each event, building business along the way.
Georganne: Yep! And the third event – or events – would
follow the dance. This is where the kids and their parents come in
to create their commemorative scrapbooks. You can host a crop for
the girls and boys together, the girls alone, even one just for
parents. If you talk about this event at each of your other events
– and give everyone a bounce-back coupon – you're sure to fill
every available seat. You may even have to host several more crops.
Not a bad problem to have!
Rich: And if you give a disposable camera to each person who
comes to the first two events, you're planting the seed to come back
and scrap. You could even throw in another bounce-back coupon for a
free crop later on.
Georganne: The cool thing is that you are introducing your store
to customers who didn't even realize that you could provide them
with many of the things they need for the big dance.
Rich: And you are offering them a means to exercise their
creativity and maybe even save money at the same time. The necklace
they had their eye on at the department store may be out of their
price range, but you can show them how to personally make a cooler
one for less. So find out which dances are being held at your
community schools and get to work.
Georganne: These events will take careful planning and
brainstorming with your staff, and maybe even some of your
Millennials customers. And you may have to buy merchandise that you
typically do not sell, but it will be worth it to become your
community's school dance headquarters.
Rich: Then keep these customers coming back for more throughout
the year with e-mail blasts, bag stuffers, classes, crops, and other
ways to keep customers close.
Our new favorite saying is "How much is your store worth?
Exactly what you put into it." Expand your comfort zone and try
something new. If you are not happy the first go around, tweak it
and try again. Start now. Crank up the dance tunes to help set the
mood and get to work!
(Note: Rich & Georganne will be the keynote speakers
at the NAMTA show, April 15, in Indianapolis. The topic:
"Retail Revolution: Straight Forward Solutions for Uncertain
Times." For a complete description of educational programming,
general trade show information, and online registration, visit www.artmaterialsworld.com/attendee.
Pre-registration ends March 15. For more info, visit www.artmaterialsworld.com
or call 704-892-6244.
To read previous columns, click on the titles in the right-hand
KIZER & BENDER Speaking!
Keynotes | Seminars | Consulting | Store Design
103 North 11th Ave., Ste. 206, St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Phone: 630-513-8020 | 24/7
COPYRIGHT KIZER & BENDER 2009. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED