Cause Events: Making a Difference, Inspiring Good and Growing Business

By Majda Rensberger, OneCoast Contributing Editor

There is a hidden power that each retailer possesses; a power to touch and inspire many hearts and many lives while watching their business blossom in return.  It’s the most beautiful and rewarding combination of good will and responsible business operating that brings a win-win for everyone involved.  This power lies in supporting your community and a Cause you are passionate about.

Many retailers have discovered the rewards in Cause promoting but there are still many who aspire to do more and learn about how to do it well.  Valorie Shaw, Owner of bric brac’n brass, a veteran retailer in San Antonio, TX  shares one of the most touching Cause events she’s held that inspired many, raised awareness, gained great publicity and increased her business  five times in a single day.

“It all starts with passion,” says Valorie, because when you are passionate about something, there is a natural drive to do good things and go above and beyond.  “Pick a Cause that is close to your heart and true to your passion.” For Valorie, it is Woman’s Cancer.  Losing her mom to breast cancer and working daily with her Manager Karen Cook who’s been battling ovarian cancer for almost seven years, Valorie has chosen this Cause as the one to regularly support. While most of the events Valorie hosts are for Woman’s Cancer, she often looks out to her community for other opportunities to make a difference and have a positive impact.

An example of that is a recent occurrence that shook her community and personally affected a family of one of her employees.  A grandchild of her employee, a three year old boy, died from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in his family’s brand new home, leaving behind his parents and two siblings.  “As soon as I found out about it, I wanted to do something to help this family,” so Valorie immediately started planning a benefit event in honor of Alex.

While events do help drive traffic and increase sales, the first and most important priority is the Cause itself and “when you are passionate about it, pulling it together is easy,” says Valorie.  But as with any event, doing it right and making sure it’s successful is crucial. The starting point is to know what your event is trying to accomplish. This event was celebrating Alex’s life and raising awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Knowing your objective will help you figure out who needs to be involved, what charity to partner with, what sponsors you will need, how to promote it and how to make it personal.

Partnering with a local charity

Once Valorie got the approval from the family, she contacted the local Children’s Bereavement Center and offered to hold a benefit for them in honor of Alex and his family. This benefit would give the Children’s Bereavement Center an opportunity to raise awareness of their services and help families just like Alex’s cope with such a devastating loss. A simple phone call to their marketing contact and a partnership was established. The event would be a Celebration of the Life of Alexander Martin Rowland benefiting the Children’s Bereavement Center and parts of the proceeds of the sales of the event day would go to them.

Finding a local sponsor

Once she partnered with a nonprofit organization that was most appropriate for her Cause, she called her local bank to ask for their sponsorship in the event. The bank touched by the story was happy to help and agreed to provide beverages for the event including wine, soft drinks and water. She also reached out to her local bakery and bistro that provided beautiful trays of cookies and food platters.   In return for their sponsorship, these local partners would benefit from the exposure and the free publicity.Once Valorie got the approval from the family, she contacted the local Children’s Bereavement Center and offered to hold a benefit for them in honor of Alex and his family. This benefit would give the Children’s Bereavement Center an opportunity to raise awareness of their services and help families just like Alex’s cope with such a devastating loss. A simple phone call to their marketing contact and a partnership was established. The event would be a Celebration of the Life of Alexander Martin Rowland benefiting the Children’s Bereavement Center and parts of the proceeds of the sales of the event day would go to them.

Promoting the event

Promoting and marketing the event is a must and it’s crucial to the success of it.  One of the main objectives of this event was to raise awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and in order to do that, Valorie had to do more than just send out an email blast and hold the event.

Becky Rowland (Alex’s Mother), Valorie Shaw of bric brac’n brass and Tracy Gomez from Children’s Bereavement Center on the set of San Antonio Living

To follow the story all the way through, the six-o-clock news also visited the store during the event and did a live report.“I wrote up a press release and sent it to all local newspapers. I contacted the editor as well who agreed to write a whole article about carbon monoxide poisoning and promoted our event.”  In addition to that, she also contacted the local TV station, San Antonio Living. They agreed to do a whole segment on their show about carbon monoxide dangers and interviewed Valorie, Alex’s mother and a representative from the Children’s Bereavement Center.

The free media coverage raised awareness about carbon monoxide as well as helped drive traffic to the shop for the day of the event.

The next thing was inviting people and getting the word out.  To do that, Valorie created an email blast that she sent out to her store’s database. She also worked with her event partners on spreading the word.  “A real business value in doing events and partnering up with other businesses is that you have access to all their email lists,” says Valorie.  In addition to sending to her database of customers, she sent a copy of her email blast to the Children’s Bereavement Center and the Bank to use to forward on to their databases. This gave the store access to a whole new group of customers and even further raised awareness of the event and the Cause.

Another simple but incredibly valuable tip is to forward the email to your friends and ask them to spread the word by forwarding on to their friends.

Personalizing the event

Once partnerships were established and all the logistics worked out, it came down to planning the event itself and capturing the theme of Celebrating Alex’s Life.  Valorie was inspired by a symbolic story told during the memorial service about a Dragonfly that signified Alex’s passing to a better world and used that as the theme for the event.

She partnered up with a local artist who created beautiful dragonfly pins with Alex’s name. Proceeds of the sales of the pins went to Children’s Bereavement Center and the family.

She also contacted a noted artist, Carla Marshal, and invited her to the event. Not only did Carla fly in for the event, she was so touched by the story that she did an oil painting of the boy with the Dragonfly story in the back. The original painting was given to the family and several smaller print copies were produced and were available to customers during the event.

The store itself told the Dragonfly story. In the display window, a pond was built with moss and butterflies and dragonflies. It was Alex’s pond. And when you entered the store, the story came alive with giant dragonflies hanging from the ceiling. “It was absolutely glorious and people were so touched and so happy to be a part of it” says Valorie.

After an incredibly inspiring and impactful event and media coverage that helped raise awareness about carbon monoxide dangers, the family of the young boy was so inspired and started their own foundation, AMR Foundation, to teach people about the dangers of carbon monoxide.  Since the event at bric brac’n brass, they’ve held a separate benefit with over 600 attendees and had raised over $200,000 for the Cause.

Not only did Valorie go above and beyond to help out a family, she helped inspire a foundation and helped raise awareness of a dangerous cause.  And when you do something good, good things happen in return. Her business grew five times the day of the event than a typical summer day. She has gained many new customers and established many new relationships. But most importantly, she set a tone and an example for what her store is all about and why local business really matters: because it isn’t just a building on the block with stuff, it is a shop with a heart.

Creative Merchandising Tips For Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Marc Dudley, Director of Visual Merchandising

This month we are talking about CAUSES and how individual retailers can help with their chosen Cause.

A CAUSE is defined as “a person or thing that acts, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result.”  It is a “principle, ideal, goal, or movement to which a person or group is dedicated.”

There are many different causes that we as individuals or Retail Stores can become involved and support.  I recently heard of a young man who wanted to raise One Million Dollars to give to the Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas to repay for the help that the Hospital had given to him.  He, with the help of the community, raised that much and more.  I saw this week on the Today Show a man who biked across country to raise awareness for Congenital Heart Defect, a cause which affected him.  These are only two examples of Causes to get involved with.  Others are Diabetes, Women’s Health, Prostate Cancer, Autism, HIV/AIDS, and many, many more.

How do you choose a Cause to support?   The important thing is to make it Personal, both to you and to the community.  Many Causes are nationally known, but if you personalize your cause in your retail store, it will have a Human Factor, and a human interest story.

Another cause is the support of Transplant patients.  If you know someone in your community who is a transplant, honor that individual and others during Transplant Awareness Time.  On a personal note, my Father is a Kidney Transplant survivor, and each October we honor him with a “birthday party” for his soon to be 15 year old Kidney.

Since this is about Visual Merchandising Tips, and we are approaching Breast Cancer Awareness Month let’s get to some TIPS:

  1. PINK PINK PINK :  this is the color for OCTOBER
  2. On the wall where you will do your display, paint PINK and use pictures of local survivors, or well known persons. Use saying, words, or phrases to personalize your display.  Some ideas are: love, support, care, laugh, dream, visualize, rainbows, pray, friends, follow your dreams, or plan ahead. These can be hand painted by a local artist or involve the school.  Many teenagers are looking for a Cause to get involved with and many are affected by the loss of a Mother, Sister, Aunt or friend. They can become a “teen-angel” for your Cause.  This, again, is involving the community.
  3. PINK RIBBON is the symbol for the month.  You can make your pink ribbons by using strips of satin ribbon attached with small safety pins.  Place these in a bowl for your customers to help in the Cause.  Make a LARGE PINK RIBBON by using ½ “ thick foam rubber, cut into 9” x 72” strips.  Wrap Pink Satin around the cut foam, or stuff like a pillow case.
  4. Above the display area hang objects like many different sneakers, painted pink, representing the Walk for Breast Cancer, or paint a bicycle or 2 and hang them to represent the “ride for the cause” that may be in or around your community
  5. Select all the PINK merchandise in your store and feature on a table for the month.  Don’t forget to rearrange and rotate this merchandise so that it continues to look fresh and new.
  6. Make it personal.  Both for yourself, your staff, and for the community
  7. REMEMBER:  This is a CAUSE, a movement to which a person or group is dedicated.

Say “I Do” to a Wedding Event

As we embark on the busiest wedding months, capture the spirit of weddings in your stores by hosting a bridal event that your brides and customers will enjoy to be a part of. The event will help to create the buzz around your community and help position you as the bridal destination.

Why Host A Bridal Event? Here are a few facts on the Wedding Marketing Industry:

  • It’s a $50 Billion a year industry!
  • $20 Billion a year is spent on gifts alone!
  • It’s Recession Proof and a year round business!

Here are 10 Steps towards a great Bridal Event:

Your Theme: Select a theme that best suits your store and assortment of products. Selecting your theme will help in the decoration planning.Here are 10 Steps towards a great Bridal Event:

    1. Traditional
    2. Contemporary
    3. Elegant
    4. Modern
    5. Vintage
  1. Invitations: Send out Beautiful and Romantic invitations that include some product shots.
    1. Make it for couples, family and friends. Who knows, there may be another bride to-be in the group.
    2. Have guests RSVP to the event. This will allow you to plan your event with more ease.
    3. Pass invites out to customers coming into the store.
  2. Create The Mood: Give the Brides to Be and their guests the ultimate VIP treatment.
    1. Have employees dress up as the wait staff. This can be as simple as Black dress pants, black button down shirt and white apron.
    2. Have a dress code for guests; make them feel that they’re dressing up for something special, “no jeans”.
    3. Use the merchandise! Have snacks served on nice serving trays and platters that are for sale.
  3. Music: Plays an important part in the creation of the mood and helps people relax. Here are some great music selection ideas:
    1. ** Have your Brides-to-Be RSVP back with their wedding song**
      1. By collecting a gathering of your guests bridal songs will allow you to add a personal touch to their experience!
    2. Prelude Music, while guests are arriving:
      1. Canon in D (Pachelbel)
      2. Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
    3. Reception (or should I say “shopping”) Music Suggestions:
      1. In Your Eyes (Peter Gabriel)
      2. Power of Love (Celine Dion)
      3. Unforgettable (Nat King Cole / Natalie Cole)
      4. Love is here to stay (Frank Sinatra)
      5. Always & Forever (Heatwave)
      6. Butterfly Kisses (Bob Carlisle)
      7. Top Wedding Songs CD’s (found anywhere CD’s are available for purchase)
  4. Drinks & Appetizers: Keep it light but fancy. Add garnish to trays to give it that added appeal.
    1. Cheese Trays
    2. Fruit Trays
    3. Finger Sandwiches
    4. Punch or Mimosa severed in Champagne glasses topped with fresh fruit.
    5. For Dessert, serve wedding cake or Italian pastries from a local bakery. Partner with the baker and advertise their services (they may throw in the food for a reduce cost).
  5. Door Prizes:
    1. Raffle off a prize for the Bride’s to Be and one for the Guests
      1. For Brides, raffle off a gift certificate or product from your store or a gift certificate to a local spa.
      2. For Guests, raffle off a gift certificate or product from your store, a nice candle or fragrance gift basket or a spa gift certificate.
  6. Partner with Bridal Services: Offer as many additional resources to create a bigger draw to your event and would most likely welcome additional advertising for themselves.
    1. Florists – Might donate a nice centerpiece arrangement
    2. Reception Halls – May donate some appetizers for the day.
    3. Travel Agents – May offer special honeymoon packages.
    4. DJ – May offer to play the music for the day of the event.
    5. Photographer – May offer their services to take photos that day.
      1. Whether it’s a local photographer or someone from your store, have someone take photos of your guests.
      2. Gather their email addresses and email them the photos after the event. This is a nice way to build your email address database.
  7. Promotions:
    1. Offer a discount to any brides registering in your store.
      1. Becoming a bridal registry destination is not as hard as you think, in fact, it’s simple.
      2. There are many on-line bridal registry software programs out there today. Google, bridal registry software today!
      3. Did you know that $20 BILLION is spent year round in bridal registry gifts?
  8. Something Extra Special:
    1. Have a top bridal consultant from your area give a talk on what he/she does and any advice he/she can offer brides.
  9. Marketing:
    1. Send e-blasts out to your customer database.
    2. Hand out invitations to customers, entering, leaving and purchasing in your store.
    3. Post Event signs throughout your store prior to the event.
    4. Invite local media the day of your event.
    5. Notify the local newspaper, town weeklies and local radio stations by sending a press release.

New Shop on the Block Said “I Do” and Discovered Retail Success!

By Lisa Wohlhart, 4/26/2010

RetailerShowcase1One 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.

RetailerShowcase2Most 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.

RetailerShowcase3With 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.

bridal-5“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.

bridal-3A Look Inside: Q & A on best categories, trends & successes

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.

How to Create a Wedding Cake Display in Your Store

By Marc Dudley, Director of Visual Merchandising

Creating a beautiful wedding display in your store will not only attract the brides but will also make regular customers think of reasons to purchase them. Create the need to purchase a wedding gift by dedicating an area of your store to a bridal display. This month’s merchandising idea will focus on creating a Wedding Cake display that is sure to capture your customer’s attention.

Merchandising1What you will need to get started:

  1. 48” round table
  2. Round riser, approx. 30” in diameter and 9” in height
  3. Round riser, approx. 22” in diameter and 9” in height
  4. Three pieces of round white styrofoam:    16”, 12”, and 8” diameter
  5. Satin or bengaline table cloth in color of your choice and fabric pieces to cover the 30” and the 22” risers to match the table cloth
  6. Garlands and floral picks for “decorating” your cake
    • ivy garlands for spring
    • Hydrangea garlands for  summer
    • Lily of the valley, Nosegay,    Grapes,    Dried berries or cones

Merchandising2Step 1:  Putting the cake together

  • Cover the table with cloth
  • Put the 30” diameter riser in the center of the table
  • Put the 22” diameter riser in the center of the previous riser
  • Drape the fabric pieces over the top 2 risers, pressing in place and pinning if necessary to create the “icing” on your cake
  • Decorate your cake with pieces of garland, flowers, stems, etc. As if to look like a beautiful wedding cake.

Step 2:  The cake topper

  • Merchandising3Stack the three white styrofoam pieces together, using floral picks and low-temp glue to hold together
  • Decorate heavily with floral buds, grapes cascading down, crystal rhinestones, hearts, or other pieces of décor to create the top of your cake
  • Allow all this decoration to flow down the top of the cake for a stunning visual effect

Step 3:  Merchandising your cake

  • Merchandising5Selecting items from your store or wedding boutique, begin to place the merchandise on the 3 tiers of your beautifully created wedding cake
  • Cross merchandise your vendor items for multiple sales
  • Make sure all items are visible and are available for impulse sales
  • Group items together, and don’t forget the negative space. Be sure not to crowd the items