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A view of the industry through the eyes of independent and chain retailers.

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Hoist Your Sales with Retailer-tested, In-store Events and Promotions

Two dozen proven strategies.

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (April 19, 2010)

If you’ve ever attended The $1.99 An Idea Luncheon, a CHA Show tradition that puts YOU in the spotlight, then you know how those 90 minutes can change your life and fatten up your wallet. Where else can you find so many great ideas to grow your business? Even better, the ideas have come from creative retailers who have personally – and successfully -- used them in their own stores.

We’re always thrilled to hear participants share how our trademark promotional events, such as “Pin This to a Guy”; “Create Your Own Coupon”; and our “Traffic and Sales Building Cash Register Receipt Auction” have worked for them. We enjoy hearing how these events have been creatively tweaked to fit your stores and your customers. Even better are the fresh, new ideas retailers share. If you’ve never attended The $1.99 An Idea Luncheon, here’s what you missed:

1. “World’s Greatest Shopping Night”: Choose one night each week, from October all the way through Christmas, and keep the store open for an extra two hours. Make it a festive night, one that keeps gift-giving on the customers’ minds. Serve hot apple cider and cookies. And be sure to provide free gift wrapping. Customers love those extra little touches.

2. “School Fundraiser Night”:  Determine a specific school that will benefit from your fundraiser night, and then advertise via bag-stuffers and directly to teachers, PTA members, etc. The fund raiser works like this:  When a customer makes a purchase and mentions the specific school, you will donate 20% of the sale to that school. You could even do this to benefit a particular classroom – teachers will line up to get their classroom on your list!

3. “Shop Hop”: Get together with other area retailers and host a Shop Hop. Encourage each participating retailer to add a little extra excitement to their usual shopping experience with make-it/take-its, product demos, giveaways, and contests. Run your Shop Hop from Wednesday through Sunday and let your customers enjoy the camaraderie of other shoppers on the “hop.” The retailer who shared this idea said that the participating store owners enjoyed FOUR times their usual sales and attracted many new customers!

4. “Wild & Wacky Wednesdays”: This event is geared to help you boost sales and foot traffic on slow sales days. In the contributing retailer’s case, Wednesday fit the bill. She began by sending email blasts inviting customers to join her on “Wild Wacky Wednesday.” Customers enjoy a quick make-it/take-it project and a tasty snack. (You know our motto: Food is Good!) Customers now look forward to shopping on Wednesday and sales have increased. This retailer chooses her make-it/take-its wisely, knowing a free 6x6” layout project will lead to the purchase of a 6x6” album to showcase the project.

5. “Monthly Scrapper’s Challenge”: Create your own scrapbooking kits from a collection of slow-moving product. Participants pay $3 for the kit and must create a project using some of everything in the kit. Display the projects throughout the store for a two-week period, with the winner selected by popular vote. The winner receives a prize along with the honor that comes from designing a cool new project. Or make this a quarterly event.

6. Zero in on Home School Moms: Why not offer a special class or crop for kids who are home schooled? Home schooled kids need interaction with other children their own age, so host this event once a month for children ages 6 and up. And, as this contributing retailer smartly pointed out, once you get a child’s attention, you get Mom and Dad’s as well – and that attention leads to sales!

7. Implement a “Create-a-Card Care Packages”: program to send to our service men and women who are stationed overseas. You can purchase pre-cut card kits or create your own. One retailer packages two kits together with a gluestick and a pen. The kits sell for $5 if the customer buys the kit and donates it to be sent in a care package; $6 if the customer wants to keep the kit for his/her own use.

8. “Pamper Yourself” Crop: This event is only limited by your imagination. Some croppers have enjoyed catered dinners (you chose the menu, they select and pay for their meal); the high school varsity football team moonlighting as valet parking attendants, free pedicures and massages, makeovers, and more.  Every once in awhile, announce a limited time discount on a particular product or category. Make it an evening of fun, festivities and plenty of shopping!

9. “The 12 Give-a-ways of Christmas”:  All qualifying orders and purchases are put in a drawing for eleven small to medium prizes, and one big prize: the contributing retailer gave away a 12x17” scanner. This contest is sure to create some excitement, so be sure to request email addresses from entrants. Tell them that this is how the winners will be notified. These email addresses will come in handy when you choose to send your next email blast.

10. This is a take-off on our “Twelve Days of Christmas” event where you host a minor event (make-it/take-it, demo, give-a-way, crop, etc.) for the twelve days leading up to Christmas Eve. Throw in a major in-store event as well. Create a Refrigerator Calendar Bag Stuffer for the month of December that you begin to distribute at the end of November. Drop us an e-mail if you’d like a copy.

11. A “Mothers’ Day Out” Program is held on two Fridays each month, from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. The first half hour of the program is a class; the second half hour is a crop.  Participants also enjoy a 10% discount on all items purchased that day.

12. Develop a “Community Partners” network with other area business owners, otherwise known as a Partnership Promotion, because it increases sales opportunities for both partners. Choose partners whose customer base scrapbook, or who might be interested in learning, then ask your partner for permission to host a scrapbooking seminar or crop for their customers. Make it look like the seminar is a gift from your partnering business. Target businesses could include travel agencies, sports clubs, MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), and the Chamber of Commerce.

13. Help teachers by creating “Classroom Page Kits” geared specifically for classroom use. Include a money-saving coupon that can be redeemed in your store. When the kids take the coupons home, it’s an added incentive for Mom and Dad to bring the kids to your store. Think instant new customers!

14. Teen Crop Night: Get teens together for a night of crafting that features things teens enjoy.  Ask participating teens to lead demos or make-it/take-its, or go even further and ask a teenager tolead the entire class.  Order up plenty of pizza and soda.  Let the participants bring their own music to play during class and turn up the volume to eleven!

15. “The Boss Is Gone!” Sale: We love this idea! Send an email blast and make it look like it came from one of your staff. The email should read, ________________________ has gone to the _________________  trade show and I’m putting everything on sale!” The contributing retailer said customers thought the employee did this on the sly so sales were brisk. Try this idea the next time you attend a trade show, go on vacation, or any time you are away from the store for a few days.

16. A “Scrap & Stamp Session” is the perfect way to shake things up when your store suffers from low class attendance. This twice-a-month program introduces attendees to new techniques. The contributing retailer holds her Scrap & Stamp Sessions on Sundays.

17. “Summer Solstice Sale”: Begin at sunrise on the day of the summer Solstice, offer discounts that decrease hourly:  40% off from sunrise to 7:00 a.m.; 35% off from 7:01 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.; 30% off from 9:01 a.m.– 11:00 a.m.; 25% off from 11:01 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.; 20% off from 1:01 p.m.– 3:00 p.m.; 15% off from 3:01 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.; and 10% off until close.

18. “New Arrivals!” Update: Send an email blast, and place notes on your website (and Facebook page and blog and on Twitter) whenever you return from a trade show or when new product arrives. Talk it up! Romance the copy so that it encourages customers to come to the store and shop. Create and distribute Bag Stuffers, and place signs in your windows and throughout the store. Add “As Seen Online” signs next to the merchandise.

19. Twice a month hold a “Lunch Break Make-it/take-it” that’s targeted to working women. Run this free event from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and watch what happens. This event is so successful for the contributing retailer that she’s added a “Stop-in Saturday Make-it/take-it” with longer hours.

20. “Annual Scavenger Hunt”: Hide unusual items throughout your store and give customers a list of all the things they must find in the store. Be sure to include boxes they can check off when each item is found. This list will encourage them to walk through your entire store, where they’re sure to see all the cool things they just have to have.  Give a prize to the customer who finds the most items.

21. Trade Show Recap Night: You can do this as a preview event to talk about all the new items you found at a trade show, or you can wait until the product arrives and a make it a mini-trade show. Use the vendor gifts and goodies you collected at the show as door prizes and give-aways, serve refreshments, and be sure to give everyone a Bounce Back Coupon to bring them back next week.

22. “Frequent Shopper Program”: Customers earn a free class for every $100 they spend in the store. The contributing retailer calls her program the S.M.I.L.E. Card”, which stands for “Scrapping Makes Ideas Look Exciting.”

23. Hold a “Scrappers’ Yard Sale” where participating customers can  “sell” all of the product they had to have, but never used, plus gently used supplies. Set up tables throughout your store or in the classroom. Sales are translated into store credit.

24. In-store Craft Fair: Why should your customers go to the craft fair at the mall when they can just as easily come to your store? Feature local crafters and artisans; assign each participant a table to showcase his/her wares. Build a buzz about town with email blasts, in-store signage and Bag Stuffers. Encourage each participant to advertise their participation in church bulletins, neighborhood newsletters, and community publications. And make sure that your store is open for business during the entire event.

There are so many more ideas to share but we’ve run out of space!  We recommend that you host one Major in-store event and at least two Minor in-store events each and every month – now you have an entire list of retailer-tested events to choose from!  Drop us an e-mail if you’d like more and we’ll send you additional events, plus a 2010 Promotional Planning Calendar.

(Note: To read previous columns by Rich and Georganne, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)

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