Social shopping is back – and not limited to the holidays. One way to boost your sales throughout the winter months is to invite a group to come into your store to enjoy some refreshments while shopping. Offering refreshments that include some wine, or warm gløgg, helps create a festive welcome.

It’s easy to host a Sip & Shop event. If your community allows you to serve alcoholic beverages without a liquor license (be sure to check), it’s simply a matter of buying some wine or other drinks, small clear cups, and a non-alcoholic alternative. You might want to also provide snacks such as nuts or pretzels portioned out for each guest, or samples of specialty foods that you carry.

Moderating the amount that guests drink is important, of course, and limiting the serving glass size should help this. Because those in attendance will be having small portions, you might find a local winery willing to come offer the wines as a tasting of their products at no charge. 

Market your Sip & Shop event as a special evening for your top customers, or a chance to meet one of your vendors.  Offering an exclusive look at products exclusively available that evening adds to the appeal.

Another way to draw shoppers is to commit to giving a certain percentage of all sales – usually 10% to 20% – to a nonprofit. Ask them to promote the event, and to invite their top supporters to come. Some stores charge an admission donation that will go to the charity – this makes the evening more exclusive. If you do charge, you’ll want to offer an array of appetizers, since customers will probably stay longer.

Live music can make your Sip & Shop more festive. Local high school or colleges may have a duo or trio willing to come play for free, or in exchange for a donation to the school. It’s a good idea to reward the individual players with a gift card, and to offer them some of the non-alcoholic refreshments.

Consider making your event by invitation only, or offering a discount on some or all of your customers’ purchases. Door prizes and goodie bags with small gifts make the evening more like a party.  Shopping at a locally owned store should be enjoyable – and offering a special event like this is one more way make this true.

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

Please note that there will not be a Specialty Shop Retailing blog next week. Happy holidays!