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Increasing foot traffic to your store is a problem every retailer must confront from time to time. All retailers want and need more customers. The Internet continues to erode in-store sales; yet statistics persist reporting that customers prefer to make purchases in the brick and mortar stores. So, why aren’t those customers coming to your store?

So many ideas concern what make a store a destination. Its appearance, pricing, sales staff, environment, selection and assortment of inventory, and let’s not forget location, location location! All of these factors combine to make each store both a convenient shop for some customers and a destination to enjoy for others. So what specifically will bring people into your store?

Here are a few tips to increase curb appeal and recognition from realtors. These suggestions address the appearance of the outside of the store.

  1. Make sure the address, the number, displays to the main access street.  That means that if your store is set back from the street, you need some large numbers & signage to express your identity. Some people will look for your store based on GPS coordinates. Others will be looking for the street address. Still others are looking for the store name. The problem with this looking is that many people will only see what they are looking for, not what’s available. That means that a potential customer who is looking for 946 Grand Avenue may miss Hubbs Sportswear because the customer is focused on the address. Professionals recommend that you cover all the bases on identifying the location. Post your numerical address and store name in signage. Post you GPS coordinates on social sites and your website.

  2. Add flowers. People notice blooming flowers (or nice fakes). Flowers may be included in the grounds area if available. Otherwise, use planters and flower pots outside, or vases of flowers in window displays. The bright colors draw the eye and express a festive atmosphere. If you are displaying live flowers or plants, water them if needed before customers begin to show up. When the plants start to wilt, replace them.

  3. Add a welcome mat—preferably red (or some other color that calls attention to the door). Be wary of mats that curl up or thick mats as these pose tripping hazards. Hollywood uses a red carpet for a reason. It’s bright, it’s bold and it makes an easy path for the eye to follow.

  4. Spruce up the main entry. Make sure windows are clean and sparkling. Sweep away bugs and dust before the store opens. Also clear snow and ice. Besides being an injury hazard, it puts off many from entering a shop in fear of falling. Doors should be clear of fingerprints. Touch-up the paint around windows and the door to make the shop look inviting.

  5. Make sure that the sidewalk and parking lot are free from cracks and breaks in the pavement. Report issues to the landlord if it needs repair or replacement.

  6. If you are open during evening hours, keep in mind that potential customers will pass by your store driving home from work, going out to dinner, running errands, etc. Good lighting will draw their eye and give an appearance ranging from elegance to whimsy depending on the lighting used.

  7. Make sure the shop smells good. A used book store that smells like old books is fine. A ladies dress shop that smells like old books is not so great. So much is possible today with scents. Make sure your store has a pleasing but soft fragrance

Remember, the end goal is not just getting your store noticed. It's selling your merchandise. Keep in mind that most shoppers today are looking for the unique. If your store carries almost the same merchandise as several others in the area, the value of the shopping experience may come down to price—specifically whose is lowest. You must offer something the “other guy” doesn’t to add value to your merchandise. Here’s an interesting fact from a 2013 on-line survey.  The survey asked purchasing customers why they made an on-line purchase rather than in-store. The number one response was purchased unique item.  Next was convenience and third was price. You may offer superior customer service, a great location, and a friendly staff, but your merchandise also needs to boast some truly unique items.

Here are some other ideas to get new customers into your store.

  1. Host, or co-host, a charity event. This could be anything from collecting canned goods for the local food bank or a run or other event.  Some retailers have collected coats during autumn months for passing out at the homeless shelter. Some businesses have then offered those who donate a coat a % off or a gift card to replace the coat they donated.

  2. Partner with another business. A clothing store, florist and a restaurant make a nice group of stores to put together an evening out.  We recommend keeping it local. Partner with a local restaurant, florist, clothing store, etc. Don’t overlook special events or entertainment venues.

  3. Food and drink helps to create a festive atmosphere. But, do not feel that you have to use a particular holiday because someone else established it previously. Create your own holidays. The only requirement is that it appeal to the customers you want to attract. Clearly, some businesses have taken the idea and built a huge business, creating such “holidays” as wish book arrival, premiere introduction, join the party and Are you ready? to get customers into their store in May, July, October and November. Of course, loyalty dollars can be spent in December and January.

  4. Do not underestimate the power of a loyalty program.  “Engaged consumers buy 90% more frequently, spend 60% more per transaction and are five times more likely to indicate it is the only brand they would purchase in the future. All of these factors lead to engaged customers delivering three times the value to the brand over the course of a year.”  Be careful because there is a lit fuse.  These shoppers are also 44% more likely to permanently abandon businesses sending high volumes of mass generic emails.

  5. Hold a competitive event. Some past events were a putting contest, a flying disc (that is Frisbee) or football toss, hula hoop kept spinning or number of hula hoops spinning, well, you get the idea. Hosting such an event is dependent on the amount of space you have to use. Stand alone stores may potentially use a parking lot; mall stores may have to make a small space inside the store which will cut into merchandise displays. It has to balance with who your customer is and what you customer will enjoy and come to the store to do.

  6. Some retailers have used tailgating events, wine tasting or craft beer sampling, or other food events (National Chocolate Day Friday, October 28th). Some have invented holidays. Invented holidays may not work too well year one, but should improve each year. If you feel the improvement is not worth your investment, try something else.

  7. Some stores have invested in amazing displays of their merchandise noting the origin of certain clothing (Scottish wool, Irish fisherman knits, etc.).  One retailer I read about had good success with displays using walls and then displaying merchandise from the ceiling.

Try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What do your customers enjoy? If you know your customers you should be able to pick some ideas to try. Finally, any time a new customer (or someone you do not recognize) comes into the store, ask them “Is this your first time in our store?” If yes, then ask how they found or heard of you. Make a note of the type of tech they mentioned. Be sure to invite them to sign up for your emailed newsletter and let them know you do not ever sell or trade information.