Whether they’re rewarding loyal customers, providing generous first-time discounts, lavishing their customers with decadent chocolates, or extending the same great discounts daily, the owners of small retail stores have to be creative -- and maybe get out of their stores a bit -- if they’re going to drive foot traffic.
Here are 10 tips that helped drive sales for other small business owners:
1. Give them their first purchase for free!
Customers who spend $400 at Gemset of Saratoga Springs, NY, which has provided high-quality jewelry for 20 years, get a $400 coupon towards their next jewelry purchase of $1,200 or more. Owner Stan Lynn says the promotion has been hugely successful in converting new customers into return customers, largely because it means that their initial jewelry purchase is free.
2. Get out of the store and go to events.
Rada Frohlichstein of Rada’s Boutique & Upscale Consignment in Wakefield, MA, takes her store on the road to local events, like the one organized by her town’s country club. She says it’s a great opportunity to educate prospective customers about her store, which provides men’s and women’s clothing and accessories from different parts of the world.
3. Provide exclusive discounts to loyal customers early in the holiday season.
Veronica A. Sagherian, co-owner of Adamas Fine Jewelry in Newton, MA, which has provided high-quality custom jewelry to its customers for 14 years, says that she only extends discounts to her loyal customers. Most recently, her store provided a 20 percent discount, but the purchase had to be made in early December. Putting a time limit on the discount is a great way, says Sagherian, for her customers to plan their holiday shopping -- and a great way for her to plan ahead as a small business owner.
4. Offer consistent, everyday discounts.
Steve Gans, general counsel and chief operating officer of New England Mobile Book Fair, also located in Newton, believes passionately that “people who are devoted to books like to have the experience of browsing and ‘happening’ upon them.” But how can he compete with the likes of Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble?
This independent bookstore, which has been in business for 53 years, provides consistent, everyday discounts to its customers, including 20 percent off hard covers and paperbacks, 30 percent off New York Times bestsellers in hardcover, 40 percent off more than 50 current cookbook bestsellers, and boasts the largest book bargain selection in New England.
5. Help create a special moment for your customers.
Not many jewelers would work down to the wire to create just the right piece of jewelry and deliver it during a romantic anniversary dinner at a local restaurant for a very loyal customer. But they do at Adamas Fine Jewelry, says Sagherian. Just another reason to go above and beyond -- it’ll help your sales to do the same.
6. Create a fun event.
Whether she features a session with a tarot reader or makeovers for party attendees, Frohlichstein of Rada’s Boutique & Upscale Consignment likes to have a little fun at her events. She’s now looking forward to a fashion show where she’ll share with attendees how they can learn to dress well for under $100.
7. Provide everyday freebies.
While big-chain bookstores might e-mail customers prompting them to get a free cappuccino at a nearby store, New England Mobile Book Fair offers a free book bag and a bag of coffee -- every day. It keeps customers coming back, insists Gans.
8. Personalize customer service and spoil your customers.
At Indulge!, a gourmet chocolate store in Newton, customers get highly personalized service. “They’re not waiting for someone or running after someone trying to get help. A lot of our customers know that even though we might be busy, we’re going to provide great service,” says storeowner Linda Gulman, who treats her customers to decadent chocolate samples while they wait.
9. Take part in neighborhood street fairs.
During a recent “Holiday Stroll” event organized by the local Chamber of Commerce to encourage residents to spend time in the town center, Frohlichstein at Rada’s Boutique & Upscale Consignment featured live models in her shop window. It’s a great way to generate interest in her store, she says.
10. Get involved in a charity/fundraising event.
It’s the holiday season and there’s no better time to help those in need. Sagherian says that her store tries to do at least one fundraising event a year where a portion of the sales goes to charity. “It certainly creates good will, though it’s not necessarily always a money maker,” she says. “Eventually, it is [a money maker] because [taking part in raising money for a good cause] makes people feel good about spending.”
And that’s something everyone can feel good about.
Image credit: DaveAustria.com