6 Tips for Promoting Independent Retail
July is Independent Retailer Month, the perfect time to remind customers that shopping locally is important. It has always been believed that small businesses fortify their communities, but now there is proof. According to the Home Sweet Home Study conducted by industry leaders the National Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and Independent We Stand, $2,298 out of $10,000 spent on a project at a local independent retailer will recirculate into the community, as opposed to only $1,164 of the same money spent at a big-box store. In other words, when products are purchased at a local retailer, twice as much of the money is kept in the community, a significant amount that can add up quickly especially in smaller towns. (To read more about the Home Sweet Home Study, click here: http://www.hardwareretailing.com/home-sweet-home/)
Independent retailers can use the study data and the six tips provided below to not only benefit themselves but also their communities during Independent Retailer Month and beyond.
Become an Advocate
Since the Home Sweet Home Study confirmed what many industry experts have long believed about the independent hardware retail industry, NRHA and Independent We Stand have developed a marketing campaign to help owners and operators promote independent retailers. Other organizations have also created important campaigns to help small businesses, such as American Express’ Small Business Saturday. Take advantage of their advice, marketing materials, and social media guides to promote your business and become an advocate for small businesses everywhere.
- Home Sweet Home: http://www.hardwareretailing.com/shoplocal/
- Small Business Saturday: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/
Get Out in the Community
Many retailers know the benefits of participating in community activities like joining the Chamber of Commerce, donating to local charities, or sponsoring local teams or events, but independent retailers should consider additional avenues to improve name recognition and keep their stores top of mind. Fortunately, July offers ample opportunity for extra outreach, especially in these areas:
- Educational Outreach: Every community has organizations that require speakers for events. Retailers can put their years of experience and vast product knowledge to use educating people about new products, highlighting industry and department trends, or answering common questions. Check with gardening groups, tinker clubs, pet and kennel clubs, Scouts, 4-H, bird watchers, or the library for opportunities. Don’t forget to bring coupons or special handouts for participants or to negotiate potential sales opportunities. Also, listen to club members. Retailers may discover an underserved niche or an inventory hole.
- Farmers Markets & Community Fairs: Markets can be a great place for a satellite store where retailers can focus on selling popular items. For retailers not set up for remote sales, local markets or fairs can still be beneficial. Use the space to promote niches and signature departments; offer family-friendly activities that incorporate inventory or demonstrate new products or techniques; or hand out calendars that highlight in-store activities.
- Tournaments & Competitions: Most communities provide many opportunities to highlight the skills of hardware store operators, from robotic competitions to cook-offs and athletic tournaments. Team events not only promote the store, but they also boost staff morale. Read how one hardware team earned victory and camaraderie through an athletic tournament: http://www.hardwareretailingarchive.com/i/559247-sep-2015/48
Take Advantage of Holidays and Special Events
Events are a great way to create interest and draw customers into stores, and well-known events, such as holidays and local celebrations, make it even easier because the hype has already been created. Below are a few ideas to help retailers take advantage of events and holidays in July and beyond.
- 4th of July: The National Retail Federation predicts that for the Fourth of July, over $6.5 billion will be spent on food alone (http://www.denverpost.com/2015/07/02/americans-expected-to-spend-more-than-6-billion-on-fourth-of-july-food-festivities/), not including outdoor leisure items, party supplies, home decor, and other products for home improvement and outdoor entertaining. Since food is such a big focus, retailers might consider having a grill-off by inviting local grill masters to enter a friendly competition. Invite customers to judge the outcome and offer coupons or discounts on grills and other party supplies. Retailers also can make a point to highlight patriotic-themed goods, as well as items that are Made in America, to capitalize on the feelings of national pride that are ubiquitous during the holiday.
- Local Celebrations: Many small towns and cities hold their most cherished festivals and events during the month of July, when the weather is ideal and people are in vacation mode. Keep a list of local events handy (if you don’t have a calendar or list, grab one from your Chamber of Commerce or local newspaper) and plan events to coincide. If your town hosts a beer festival, invite the local home brewers to conduct a workshop in your store or offer grilling classes with beer-inspired recipes. If it’s an apple festival, offer classes on apple tree care and maintenance, or canning classes on preserving the best apple butter. Make sure to include fun events for the kids.
- Window Displays: Festive window displays are an easy way to show your connection to holidays and events and a great way to grab attention. Read about two retailers who had success with funky holiday window displays here:
Beyond window displays, many hardware retailers have used their creativity to draw customers into their stores with fascinating displays, interesting decor, or fun activities. Let Pinterest be your inspiration, and you may have the same success as these three retailers:
- Interesting Decor: One Idaho store was inspired by Pinterest to go vintage, and the results are stunning. See photos and read about the process here: http://www.hardwareretailing.com/mixing-the-old-with-the-new/
- Fascinating Displays: A unique tree trunk display draws traffic at one Ohio store. Read about it here: http://www.hardwareretailing.com/store-traffic-climbs-thanks-unique-tree-display/
- Fun Activities: A special niche inspired a new event at an Indiana store, during which sales goals were met and nearly 50 community members and customers were entertained. Read about the store’s success here: http://www.hardwareretailing.com/playing-around-at-the-hardware-store-game-night/
Partner with other Independent Businesses
One of the best ways to promote your independent business is by promoting others. Partnering with local businesses, especially those that complement hardware stores, such as cooking schools, community-supported agricultures (CSAs), or pet boutiques, can produce many mutually beneficial opportunities to draw customers in to your store. Consider conducting canning demonstrations for a cooking school or providing in-store space for a local groomer to offer nail trimming to customers’ pets. One California retailer was able to increase store traffic by teaming with a CSA. Read more about the store’s success here: http://www.hardwareretailingarchive.com/i/573334-oct-2015/40
Make Online Connections
You never know where a customer may learn about your business, especially online. That’s why it is important to make as many online connections as possible by following and posting to the Twitter and Facebook accounts and blogs of multiple industry resources. The National Hardware Show®, NRHA, Hardware Retailing magazine and Industry Edge all have social media accounts. Take advantage of their traffic and numbers by following them and making posts. Also, organizations like Independent We Stand offer search engines for customers who are seeking independent retailers. If your store isn’t listed, click here http://www.independentwestand.org/support-independent-business/search/ and register today!