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We recently asked our email subscribers about any pressing problems or concerns they may have. Over and over, the response was something like this:  We need to find a way to get more customers into the store or we need more (new) (younger) customers. After searching out ideas from the web, here are a few of the most popular.

There are several ways to accomplish this and what is right or wrong depends on your store and your customers. For example, we read about a children’s store owner who hosted “Mimosas for Moms” on the morning of the first day of school. She sent invitations to her best customers. What made it such a good idea is that her customers were moms of young children, already out that morning dropping off children, and they now had some spare time without the distraction of their children. She said the morning was such a success, that she would make it regular event. She created a destination and a fun activity for young mom’s to come and enjoy sharing together and to purchase some cute clothes for their youngsters, great for impulse buys.

A trunk show can be a win-win-win for everyone involved but it takes planning and effort (translate that time). Trunk shows may be early in the season or late in the season depending on the goal of the retailer and the designer. A show early in the season or pre-season can tell a designer what items may be hot but a show late in the season can move less popular items. For the retailer, people usually enjoy meeting their clothing and accessory designers so they will make an effort to come to the store. It gives the retailer a low cost way to test a designer and to offer a complete line from a particular designer--goods that the store may not be able to otherwise stock in inventory.  If possible, make sure that there are complete outfits featured: i.e. a suit, dress shirt, neckwear and shoes for men or a suit, blouse, jewelry, handbag and shoes for ladies. 

It is the retailer’s responsibility to advertise the event; it should be on the store’s web site and on all social media sites. Do not forget to make phone calls to your best customers to extend your personal invitation to attend. Try to have multiple shows each season. Use these opportunities to remind your customers that local businesses support other local businesses while the chain retailers support their corporate headquarters more than the local area. And be sure to let your customers know that “shop local” is not using the closest-to-home retailer but rather it is using the locally-owned, independent retailer.

If you need a holiday celebration, but it’s not holiday time, create a holiday. From the web site here are a few possibilities:
April 7: No Housework Day—A great day to replace those old linens and towels or for homemakers everywhere to celebrate with a new __________.
Friday, November 6: Saxophone Day—possibly feature Jazz Music or a benefit for the local high school band
Wednesday, November 11: Veteran’s Day—honoring those who have served our nation
Friday, December 4: Santa’s List Day—possibly paired with an angel tree charity for a children’s store.
Tuesday, December 8: National Brownie Day—‘nough said
If you have “Santa” come to your store, parents will bring their children to drop off their lists and for picture opportunities. Or, ask your customers to fill out their wish lists. Then when their spouse or significant other comes in looking for a gift, all you need do is pull out their list.

If these don’t work for your store, get creative and think outside the box. If your store is located in a cold climate area, maybe sponsor a contest to choose the first official freeze, snowfall or temperature hitting 0, down to the minute. That person could win a warm hat or pair of gloves (surely they have a jacket already), but make sure your customers come into the store to fill out the entry blank. If you have a nice outfit that hasn’t moved earlier in the season that could be the winning prize as well.

On-line retailers cannot compete with a competent tailor or properly trained staff to produce the superior fit that truly enhances the customer’s appearance. This event could highlight a young professional’s first job interview, a makeover (always entertaining to an audience), or a benefit to the community—trade in a pre-owned outfit for a local charity and then purchase a new one. Also, if you partner with other local businesses, this is an opportunity to create a special occasion like the perfect date night.

One of the most successful restaurants in California spends next to nothing on advertising but a bundle on landscaping around their restaurant. Every patch of earth t is blooming throughout the year. Why do they do this? Because they know their abundance of flowers will attract customers’ eyes, so everyone knows who they are and where they are located. People from different areas may not remember the name of the restaurant but they do remember the restaurant with all the flowers and everyone local knows where it is. It had the added advantage of being a great place for a bridal or special event picture.

Other suggestions for businesses to partner with (besides restaurants) are entertainment venues, schools and colleges, and similar but non-competing stores. Get some agreements in place to promote each other.

Re-dress mannequins frequently. Accessorize differently each time. Feature products differently. Frequently your customers think of clothing going together only 1 way. You have to teach them the different looks.

Some retailers offered a no sales tax day on April 15th, the day personal taxes are due to the IRS. There are laws in place that make paying sales and use tax mandatory, but you can discount merchandise for any day by the amount of the sales tax rate.

Statistics demonstrate that most American adults (72% of men and 76% of women) are using the Internet and Social Networking sites. If you do not have a web site and a Facebook page for your store that you regularly update, you are missing opportunities to connect with both old and new customers. The Millennial generation is connected through their smartphones and they are constantly performing searches on local stores. If you are not on the Internet, you do not exist in their world.

Keep in mind that most people will judge you on first impressions within the first 3 seconds of walking past your store.  It is imperative that the store be neat, clean and well presented at all times. Put your markdowns towards the back of the store unless hosting a major clearance sale. Sticking old merchandise out on the sidewalk looks like a garage sale, the store that sells “stuff no one wanted.”

Remember, if you keep doing the same things you always did, expect to get the same results you always did. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing and expecting different results. Therefore, if you want to change what’s currently happening, try something different.