This past Saturday was Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD). Locally-owned, independent toy stores all around the country celebrated being local and special by having toy demonstrations and special events in their stores. Many of their top vendors supplied them with freebies and demos and raffle items. We always tied the day in with other special events such as a yo-yo contest, puppet show, and LEGO building contest.
You know that one of my Core Values is Having Fun so it should be no surprise that NTSD was one of my favorite days of the year!
I am a big fan of holding events in your store as a way to stand out from the crowd, as a way to show off your expertise, and as a way to surprise and delight your customers. Events are fun for your staff, fun for your customers, and fun for your bottom line.
First, events make you different. The big chains don’t do events anymore (most never did). Your local competitors might. But that’s okay. Anything that shines a positive light on indie retailers is a good thing.
Second, events show you off to be the expert. You get to demo your products. You get to bring in guests to WOW your crowd. You get to show off how much you know about your industry. Remember that Relational Customers are looking for the “expert they can trust.” Events are a great way to establish your expertise.
Third, your vendors love events and are often willing to help you make your event special. Your vendors have marketing budgets, too. They often spend that money on product samples, giveaways, door prizes, and raffle items for their retailers. Some have kits pre-made and ready to go. Some have promotional material available for the asking. Some have special discounts for event orders. Some will send you their staff to help out.
Those freebies and door prizes and raffle items are tools you can use to surprise and delight your customers.
Sure, a toy store lends itself to fun and play, but it really isn’t that hard to come up with events for any type of retailer that will ratchet up the fun factor and lead to increased traffic and sales.
Shopping is supposed to be fun. Your job is to make it that way.
Shoe stores: Bring in an Orthotist for special case fittings. Make a “terrain board” with different types of surfaces to show how different soles grip the ground. Have a shoe box stacking competition. Bring in sports stars to promote certain brands of tennis shoes (make it a charity event). Have a shoe polishing demonstration.
Clothing Stores: Have a fashion show. Bring in a fashion expert for personal fashion tips. Have a tailor on hand for same-day alterations. Have a t-shirt wearing contest (the more shirts you put on at once, the bigger prize you can win or the more names you get entered into a drawing, etc.) Have a Dress-the-Mannequin competition with teams, charities, and a public vote. Do a fashion photo shoot.
Grocery Stores: Have a tailgate in your parking lot with a big screen TV for the game. Host a BBQ contest. Teach cooking classes. Have a pie-eating contest. Have a fear-factor type event challenging people to eat crazy food concoctions or foreign foods that seem weird.
Music Stores: Have live concerts, open mic nights, jam sessions, open group lessons, instrument repair classes, historical instrument displays, Have a one-man-band competition to see who can play the most instruments at once.
Photography Stores: Have a photo art gallery. Offer classes. Have a glamour backdrop for “celebrity” photo shoots. Set up a temporary old-school photo development lab and show people how it used to be done. Make pin-hole cameras.
There are plenty of different ways you can use events to draw a crowd, set yourself up as the expert, and surprise and delight your customers. You are only limited by your team’s imagination. Be crazy. Go crazy. Do something crazy. It pays in both the short (immediate traffic and sales) and long term (loyal customers who see you as the expert they trust and who love to talk about you to their friends).
PS Go big. The bigger, more outrageously fun you make your event, the better it will be. That’s one truth that will never change.