I am a big advocate of small retail stores especially when they're locally owned and operated. Small retail stores have an advantage over their larger and more globalized counterparts. They can order what they want, special order items that they normally don't carry, and carry items that aren't "fast movers." Small retail stores can also offer better customer service due to their smaller size. It's very rare that I've ever walked into a small store and not been personally greeted upon entrance and personally shown the items I was looking for.
Unfortunately, small retail store also means small advertising budget, and unless they can get on the local news for being awesome at a specific item, getting word out can be difficult. Though, I did just recently see where a local butcher received media attention in my area for serving fresh locally grown meat. It was a boon for the small butcher shop, but not feasible for every small store. Having the news cover a small business is like winning the lottery. However, there are things you can do as a small retail business owner that will grab the attention of local shoppers.
Sponsor Events and Festivals
When I lived out in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, there was a small bookstore called "Page After Page." When I arrived the small bookstore had only been open a year, but they were located downtown on the waterfront and received foot traffic from walkers, joggers, and people visiting the waterfront, museum, and nearby parks. It was a boon for the woman's small business, but she still needed to do more. So every year, she was a sponsor for the Potato Festival. She tacked up fliers on street poles and bulletin boards, and the fair advertised her business during its annual shout out to attenders. The result was that hundreds of people browsed through her books every Potato Festival and then later came back to buy more books. She was especially adamant about ordering any book she didn't have in stock, and she promoted local authors which in turn drove more business.
Be a Part of Local Couponing Websites
As a conscientious consumer, I keep abreast of coupon on my local city couponing website. For me, that website revolves around Indianapolis, and contains coupons for most of the local small businesses. The best thing a small retail business can do is offer coupons and post them on their city's couponing website even if it's just 10% off the customer's next shopping purchase.
In these times, couponing drives business. It can also drive repeat business. Many of the local retail businesses in my area have small signs on their doors informing customers and potential customers that coupons for their products and services can be found on the local couponing website. All the customer has to do is print off the coupon and bring it in during their next shopping excursion. It's easy, simple, and can drive endless amounts of repeat business.
After Hours Marketing Parties
Big retail chains do this in the form of large before or after hours sales. Small retail businesses can do this as well and add a personal touch by offering free food and drinks to shopping party goers. The small business just has to advertise the event in local newspapers and online via social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, and offer a discount to party attendees. During the party, the small business can inform the guests of their products and services and upcoming products and services, hand out coupons for future purchases, and ring up purchases while the guests enjoy themselves in the relaxed after hours atmosphere.
Read more by S.L. Carroll.
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