It’s more important than ever to give customers a reason to come in to your store – and to make shopping entertaining and enjoyable.  A calendar of frequent free events helps reinforce the idea that there’s always something going on in your shop.

Facebook and Instagram, together with e-mail blasts, make it possible to create and promote special in-store events for almost nothing. If you think creatively, you can often keep your costs other than staffing below $50. Cooperating with your vendors and neighboring businesses is a great way to start.  As an example, we do an annual tasting of the ice cream toppings we sell. Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, located not far from us on Monroe Street, contributes a tub of vanilla – and we warm a few jars of toppings provided by our manufacturers. Our only cost is for the sampling bowls and spoons.

We also cooperate with our fellow Monroe Street Merchants to hold a First Friday event every month, staying open 1 ½ hours later than usual and offering refreshments. We give customers making a purchase the chance to spin the wheel and win their choice of a prize, most of which are closeouts or unsold clearance items.  We also donate 20% of our sales to a different non-profit each month.

Twice a year, First Friday coincides with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Gallery Night. Last fall we invited one of our Monroe Street neighbors, metal artist Susan Moberly of Torn Edge Arts, to sell her jewelry in our shop during the event. Although we do carry some jewelry, we encouraged her to sell direct to the public during Gallery Night. We were just happy to have a way to generate some extra traffic – and good will.

Good will is a natural byproduct of any event when a percentage of sales goes to charity. And of course customers love to be offered refreshments, which can make anything from the introduction of a new line to the unveiling of a new display fixture into a party.

Here are a few ideas of other events you could do inexpensively to attract shoppers: 

•    invite artists to demonstrate their craft

•    ask a sales reps to show their line

•    have authors sign books

Will all your events draw a crowd? Probably not. But you can still consider them to be a success if they have served their purpose in keeping your store’s name in front of potential customers, reminding them that shopping in person can be fun.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder