Most advertisements focus on products you offer in your retail store. That can get boring. Every once in a while you need to plan an event that will promote your store itself as well as attract replacement customers. That's an event.
There are many types of events your store can host or participate in. They include your grand opening event, holidays, anniversaries, and other local promotions. Find any excuse that you can to celebrate your business—and to draw more customers to it.
Many retailers don't plan a grand opening event until they have been open a few weeks or even a few months. Why? Because they want to be ready to throw open the doors with a big bang. The store may not be completely ready for such an event when it first opens. Or the initial opening may conflict with other big events that would compete with and draw from the retailer's own event. There is no law that says you must have your grand opening on the day you first open the doors. Have it when you're ready and when it will be most profitable.
What you include in your grand opening event depends on what you are selling, your budget, and other factors. Some proven ideas for retail grand opening events include these:
Invite a major supplier to offer product demonstrations.
Offer introductory discount prices on some or all merchandise.
Ask a local celebrity to appear during the event.
Offer prize drawings and give away tickets throughout the event.
Offer live music that will be appreciated by your target audience.
Consider hiring a local radio station to provide a remote broadcast from your store.
Offer food, product samples, or instruction to visitors.
Have all employees wear appropriate costumes for the event.
Invite the local media to cover the event, or give them a post-event report.
There are dozens of other things that you can do to make your grand opening grand. Ask your local merchant association and other business advisers for more ideas.
Don't let your store's anniversary go by without reminding your customers of your service to them and telling them of your appreciation for their continued business. An anniversary event doesn't have to be on the exact date that you first opened the doors. It can be held within a week or two either way of the actual date, preferably on a weekend. Make your plans well in advance and plan an appropriate event that will show your appreciation for your customers, the folks who keep you in business.
You can use your retail anniversary to get help from your suppliers toward making it eventful. For example, you can write press releases for the local media. Some media, especially in competitive markets, offer lower-cost anniversary packages to help you promote your business. Your wholesale suppliers, too, may have packages that cut your costs. You are their customer and they may want to thank you for being in business. Let them.
It now seems that the sales year is just one big holiday event as Halloween turns to Thanksgiving, then to Christmas, and then to New Year's sales, followed by Presidents’ Day, and so on. That's because events offer everyone an excuse to shop. People love to celebrate. Shopping is economic celebration.
Your retail store will have natural holidays as well as ones that stretch logic. It's really your decision whether you participate in them and, if so, how. Just make sure that whatever event you host offers long-term profits to your business so you can celebrate it again next year.
Done with your event? Not until the paperwork is complete. Make notes on the event: the number of visitors, prizes given, sales levels, resources, and suggestions for the next time you host this event. A month afterward, you may not remember the details—what worked and what didn't—so you should plan to write thorough notes right after the event in order to learn and profit from it.
Merchant associations are notorious for promoting just about anything into a sales event: Groundhog Day, Pumpkin Festival, Second Saturday, whatever. In fact, these events typically are planned for the months that don't already have an accepted event. Or they are set up as politically correct versions of what were holy days—holidays.
Should your retail store participate in collective promotions? Yes, if they are appropriate to your customers. Stores that sell to children should participate in promotions aimed at children, obviously. Remember too that your customers will measure your store by whether you are involved in events that they participate in.
The key to collective promotions is using them to get the lowest advertising rates while developing new customers for your retail store. The event must make sense to your business plan.