Shop Small to Make a Big Difference!
Independent small businesses remain a vital part of the economy and supporting them this year is more important than ever. American Express celebrates small businesses annually with Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday.
COVID-19 is making it difficult to shop in person this year but for your loyal customers who will come out anyway, you want to be ready for them. Some of these tips apply to your online shop too—your own website, Etsy-hosted, or otherwise. Either way, you can create an incentive for Shop Small Saturday this November 28.
Through high school and college I had various job. Except for a few years waitressing, I spent most of my time working in a mall. I worked through plenty Thanksgiving weekends when holiday shopping kicked-off and witnessed the frenzy firsthand. My first job was in the food court for a small independent restaurant trying to vie for market share against regional and national chains like Hot Dog on a Stick and Orange Julius. I was cashiering at Foot Locker when Reeboks and Air Jordan high-tops debuted, and I was behind the counter at The Limited when their Forenza and Outback Red brands populated the majority of real estate in every young woman’s wardrobe.
All of these jobs taught me something about hustle, merchandising and excellent customer service.
First off, the hustle
Be ready and send out the invitations and coupons now. Send out a press release, post on all your social media platforms, place an ad or two—let people know you have something special in store for them this coming Saturday and throughout the holiday season. Spread the word far and wide!
Merchandising – Set the Stage
Clean your store! Dust all your products and shelves, straighten your racks, clean your windows and displays. You might think this is so obvious and yet I’ve seen dust bunnies hop down a shelf while I searched for the perfect item more than once. Stock your back room so that you are ready to replenish your bags or packing tissue paper. Have inventory ready to make its way our onto the sales floor.
Be responsible to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by having masks available for anyone who forgot one. Branded masks would be fantastic, but any will do. Have hand sanitizer in several places throughout the sales floor so shoppers can clean their hands after examining items.
Move your merchandise around and change your displays. You’ll be amazed how people who have been in your store 20 times before suddenly think you brought in new merchandise just because you moved the items that were in the back to the front. I kid you not! This is true on your online shop too. Move your featured items around and freshen up with new photos, place your merchandise in settings where it will be used—in a real display in a store, and in photos online.
This is especially helpful if you have some really old merchandise that you can drastically mark down 50% or more. Do you have products lurking in your storeroom? Now’s the time to get those items moving out the door.
If you have merchandise in sets (six items in one package) that have not been a hot seller, consider breaking up the package and selling each item for a higher unit price. For instance, a pack of six holiday candles that retails as a set for $12 could easily sell for $3 each and now you’ve increased your income by 50% when they sell. If they are last season’s, offer a buy two at $3 each, get one free and now you’ve broken even.
Merchandising – Sales & Spiffs
The three keys to sales are all about U––Urgency, Units, and Upsell.
- Any sale you offer needs to have some urgency. You can offer a one-day sale on certain items or something just for the first 50 or 100 shoppers. Many retailers have “door-buster” sales for the earliest shoppers.
- Suggesting last minute add-ons from the register is a great way to increase your units per transaction and your bottom line. Three pairs of socks for $12 ($5 apiece), a pair of earrings, a greeting card or other small item that can be displayed near your register can cover the cost of one employee’s hours for the day—and more. They bought the sweater, but did they see the scarf and earrings that match? Your employees need to be very familiar with your merchandise to make these multiple unit sales add up quick in your register. Train your employees to think this way. Even if you sell pressure washers, there are things to add to the sale: detergent, shop towels, extension cords, etc.
- Offer an incentive to spend more is a classic upsell. With a $35 or $50 tab, throw in a gift certificate to come back before the end of the year, or an attractive branded tote bag, holiday decoration, or commemorative offer. People love instant gratification so the gifts you offer that they can leave with are usually the most effective. Even a punch card for frequent visits is an incentive to spend more.
Don’t leave your employees out of the picture.
Your salespeople don’t have to earn commission to want to do well. Let’s say you have some premium items with $50 to $100 price points. Give your employees $5-$10 cash for each one they sell. If you own a restaurant, offer $2 for every dessert or appetizer your wait staff adds to a table. Waiters can ostensibly double their tips right now if they persuade their diners to order a meal to go for tomorrow.
All employees should be greeting customers and introducing themselves to all customers. “Welcome to Betsy’s Boutique! I’m Leslie, please feel free to let me know if you need help finding anything.” Nametags should not be a crutch. Talking to your customers is important for the experience—keeping socially distant doesn’t mean you can’t connect. Especially now, people are hungry for human connection.
Thank every customer for coming and invite them back. We used to say at The Limited, “Thank yous are free, so give them freely!”
Small businesses are burgeoning businesses. Every business starts small and helps the economy by employing locals and contributing to the local tax base. Do your part by making a point to shop small.
Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and businesses of all shapes and sizes. Sign-up on her website today to receive helpful insights like this one in your inbox. See how easy your efforts can be here