By Lisa Wohlhart, 4/26/2010
One of the most effective ways to stand out from retail competition and stay in your customers mind is to create your own retail environment and brand yourself as a destination. Specialty Shops have a great advantage over “big box” retailers today as they have the unique advantage to personally interact with their customers, get to know them and make the overall shopping experience fun. A great way to do this is through events.
New to the industry but no stranger to retail, Laura Mooney, owner of the Spotted Giraffe in Jensen Beach Florida, learned this quickly after hosting a successful grand opening this past October. She has since then started to incorporate the use of events and promotions into her business to drive traffic to her boutique.
Most recently Laura decided to host her first and biggest themed event to date, a Bridal event. The thought sparked after receiving a OneCoast wedding email blast and reading tips from the OneCoast online Event Resource.
“I carry a large selection of Mud Pie wedding” Laura explained. “Since no one around me carries wedding products like these, I wanted to show brides and wedding planners the unique wedding party gifts and serviceware I have to offer.”
A perfect time to get a jump start on the upcoming wedding season, Laura decided right then and there to host a bridal event at the end of the month and make herself a destination.
With not a lot of time in front of her, Laura went straight to planning. In order to create a bigger draw to her event, she partnered with local businesses and planners that cater to the bridal industry. They agreed to donate items or services in exchange for advertising their services the day of the event. She created bridal-like wedding invitations and emailed them out to her customer database and handed them out around town. Laura also forwarded the invites out to the vendors she partnered with for them to pass along to their customers. She placed additional orders with vendors so she had enough stock on hand and arranged for a raffle prize for customers to enter and win.
“As I got closer to the day of the event, I took another quick look at the OneCoast event bridal guide to see if there was anything else I could do to add value to my customers” Laura explained. “I saw the suggestion to create a bridal registry and immediately thought…I can’t do that! But then I thought…why couldn’t I do that?”
Laura used the idea and came up with a similar solution and developed a paper bridal registry. She created a product showcase in excel that featured photos, descriptions, dimensions and pricing and then “dressed it up a little” to make it more attractive.
“The registry was time consuming, but well worth it” Laura explained “it was an easier and faster way to show couples the full lines of products we have to offer. I have a smaller store but I also offer special ordering for my customers. This allows me to offer more than what I can put on my floor.”
It was now the day of the event, March 30, 2010. The event was to go from 6-9pm. Laura was filled with nerves and excitement. “Will everything get done, will people show, will the vendors I partnered with follow through?” Laura shared with us.
It was moments before six, nice wedding music started to play in the background and the hors d’oeurves started to come out and, brides to be, planners and customers started to roll in. There was a lot of mingling, interaction and even some sales going on.
“I was pleased with the turnout of events” said Laura “I had a 25% increase in business that day as well as 11 brides that opened a bridal registry with me. I love the thought of the bridal registry and I’m so glad I did it. My store is now marketed to everyone that is invited to the Brides wedding shower and wedding. It really continues to put my store out there in front of people”.
With a few events under her belt now, Laura continues to think about what event to do next. Pleased with the results from her last event, she’s always looking for ways to make the next event better and learn from each experience. What she does know is that to succeed and stay afloat, especially in these times, you need to market yourself and keep yourself at the top of your customers mind and set yourself apart from your competition. “You just have to commit, spend a little time and just do it” she says.
Q: What are your best product categories?
A: The vendor products that sell best are: Lindsay Phillips, Mud Pie, Blue Sky Imports, and Kay Dee Design.
Q: What’s the biggest trend you are seeing in your store?
A: The biggest trend I’m seeing is personalized items. I carry bags/totes; I can say 95% of the time customers ask me to monogram their items.
Q: What categories sell best in your store?
A: SwitchFlops (Taylor & Lilly), Mud Pie (rubberwood cutting boards, Wedding party gifts, bags/totes), and Kay Dee (Apron’s).
Q: What makes your store unique and keeps customers coming back?
A: Customer service: Friendly staff, knowledge of products. If I don’t have the item in stock, I will go out of my way to get the product for you. We offer free gift wrapping, and we can ship your gift. I sample the gourmet products I sell.
Q: What has been your best event you’ve held to date? What events do you plan to hold next?
A: The best event would be the wedding event; it’s the first themed one I’ve hosted.
Q: What are the next events you are thinking about hosting?
A: a Fourth of July Event and definitely a Christmas Open House. There will be more in-between but those are the more definite ones I am thinking about.
Q: Beside events, what do you do to market yourself?
A: I have taken advantage of an empty store front at the other end of the mall, and displaying my products in the window. I always wear what I sell.
Q: What ONE IDEA would you like to share with our fellow retailers?
A: My one idea to share with others is to think outside of the box when decorating your windows, be creative that’s what draws your customers in. I’m always researching for new and unusual ideas. For the wedding event, I asked a local consignment shop to borrow a wedding gown and incorporated that into my display.