Owning a retail store is a complicated and challenging job. From taxes to stocking to managing employees, you have dozens of hats to wear. And even after your store is set up and running smoothly, you have to sell, which means you have to know how to get customers in the door.
Operating in a neighborhood with foot traffic, having inviting signage, and creating an online presence are all crucial, but what if you still need an extra bump?
These techniques are used at local shops across the country, and they all help get warm bodies in your shop. Just make sure once they’re there that you know how to close the sale.
1) Have Limited Edition Runs
The sneaker industry has proved that limited runs can do wonders for your sales. Any type of limited items create a sense of urgency and motivate people to come to stores. Limited release can include:
- Seasonal offerings
- Pre-sale items offered at lower prices
- Products by specific artists with limited runs
- Special editions, where for a limited time the product comes with a free gift or signed by the artist
- Collectibles, like the Starbucks tumblers, where a specific version of a product can only be purchased within a certain time frame
The key with limited edition release is to get the word out. If you go this route, make sure to combine it with a marketing campaign that lets people know what the specifics are and how long they have to get the deal.
2) Offer Items That Can Only Be Found In Store
One great way to get customers in the door is to offer things they can’t get anywhere else. This means stocking makers who are just starting out, and ideally, aren’t selling online yet.
If you can offer unique products that aren’t on Amazon, you’ll draw customers in. And there are more advantages to stocking small and local makers besides the exclusivity they offer. Makers also:
- Have great brand stories
- Offer unique products
- Are often on or ahead of trends
- Tie your store to the local community and give your store’s brand an identity
- Can be valuable business contacts by getting their fans to shop at your store
Just like with making limited edition runs, make sure that when you stock makers, you let your customers know they’re supporting small businesses.
3) Stock Up For Local Events
Wherever you are, your shop is part of a local community. This gives you the unique opportunity to serve that community better than anyone else could. Ask yourself the following questions to get an idea of the local themed products you could stock:
- What’s specific to your city, town, state and country?
- What holidays, events, or traditions does your community have?
- What high school or college paraphernalia could you sell?
- What different neighborhoods or classic landmarks does your city have?
Stocking local flair not only gives you a unique edge in an under-served market, it will also act as marketing for your shop. People probably won’t notice a random candle in their friend’s house, but they’ll definitely notice a candle with the town’s most famous bridge or their high school’s mascot on it. These pieces will act as conversation starters, and your store will receive good word of mouth.
4) Inspire Your Community With ‘How To’ Events
No, we’re not saying you’ve got to start teaching rocket science, but no matter what store you own, there are classes that would be a good fit. Michael’s, for instance, offers a wide array of crafting classes, both for kids and adults.
Spend some time thinking about what your customers would be interested in learning. What stage of life are they in? What income level do they have? What do the majority of them have in common? The following list or any additional ideas you generate can all serve as ways to get new people in your shop.
- How to style yourself
- Makeup lessons
- How to make beaded jewelry, candles, and other crafts
- Paint and wine nights
- An intro to interior decorating
Not only will people stay to browse, but you can split the earnings with the people that run the events, and sell related products that will help the attendees start their new craft.
5) Host Art Shows And Performances
If you’re struggling to think of how to get customers in the door, consider hosting art shows. These casual shows draw a crowd because each artist will invite friends and family to support them. Not only that, but the entire event consists of people mingling and looking around your store.
Even if your community doesn’t have a huge art scene, there are always people taking art classes. You can reach out to local art teachers and ask if they’d like a new space for their end-of-class shows.
If you don’t have the wall space to hang paintings, there are plenty of other art performances that also pull a crowd. Comedy shows, musical open mics, and poetry readings are all events that will fill your store with new people. Plus, you can schedule them for low volume times, so your store is packed with people when it’s usually the most empty.
How to get customers in the door is one of the toughest parts of being a store owner, but also one of the most important. Businesses are constantly changing and adapting, so don’t let yourself get stuck in your usual habits. Even if throwing an event in your store or finding a local artist to collaborate with about a limited-run seems overwhelming, that might be the best reason to do it.