Not open 24 hours a day? Good! Not only does it mean that you have a life, but it also means that your shop has the opportunity open outside of its regular store hours for private sales events.  In an era where people value unusual experiences, the exclusivity of a shopping opportunity not available to the public has a certain cache.

George Watts & Son, a venerable retailer in nearby Milwaukee which celebrated its 140th anniversary in 20120, knows about the appeal of private events.  The store recently sent out an e-mail to its customers offering five free holiday shopping parties for 15 to 50 people, complete with refreshments. Free gift-wrapping is an added perk, as is a gift (valued at over $100) for the host or hostess.  Although the idea of giving the host a gift to the person inviting his or her friends reminds me a bit of of a Tupperware party, I’m sure it is much appreciated.

Since Watts is not normally open any evenings, they have lots of options to offer for private event dates. Our shop is open until 8:00 on weekdays, but we have done breakfast events, and also provided private shopping after we close at 4:00 on Sunday afternoon. 

A classic version of the after-hours shopping event is one in which a percentage of sales goes to a non-profit, and that group invites its members and supporters to come.  This is a great way to expand your customer base while doing good in your community.

The cost of hosting a private after-hours event is mostly in the refreshments and staffing, although a small gift for all attending is a nice touch.  Serving wine, if allowed in your area, helps create a festive atmosphere (watch out for red wine, though, if you have light-colored carpeting). Consider partnering with a local wine shop or winery to provide a tasting.  George Watts and Son offers cupcakes at their private shopping events from their friends at Classy Girl Cupcakes — a great way to promote both businesses.

We usually invite our top customers, however the private holiday party concept that Watts is promoting to its customers is a great way to get new shoppers into the store. And in retailing, as in Girl Scouts, we need to make new friends while we keep the old.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder