Retail premises are expensive. Good quality retail premises can be very expensive indeed. Therefore, it is vital to squeeze every penny of value out of your siting and in a lot of cases I don’t think that retailers achieve that.
There’s that wonderful phrase ‘location, location, location’ that supposedly defines the key to retail success. If it were true, every high street would be booming and all the streets off them would have tumbleweed blowing down them. And they aren’t.
So you should have a plan to make your retail premises work hard. That starts well before the potential customer opens the door: it starts on the pavement. There are a number of things you can do to turn the customer on the pavement into the customer in the store and then at the till.
Let’s start with A-boards. In some towns this can be a contentious issue. Everyone is using them without consideration of other retailers or, more importantly, the pedestrian, the shopper. That’s a lose, lose situation and some councils have reacted with a blanket A-board ban, so that’s lose, lose, lose.
Hopefully you don’t have that problem. In which case get A-board savvy. The message(s) on an A-board should be new, fresh and different, every day. Regular passers-by will come to realise that, hey, there’s always an interesting new story here.
Aim to make it fun. People like shopping. It’s a popular leisure pursuit, so aim for fun. If the outside of the store is fun, that promises well for the inside and nobody wants to visit a dull store. Never forget that sport is supposed to be fun, too.
Pick up on the sports news for this, eg, to take a recent case, anyone wearing a Chelsea shirt gets a ten per cent discount at 26 minutes past the hour. If you and your staff can’t come up with ideas like this regularly – perhaps daily – are you trying hard enough?
Be a pavement artist. Buy some chalks and write your customer message there. This could be very simple – follow the chalk marks for the best deal in sports goods. Or it could be a lot funkier. If you or a staff member has artistic skills, the pavement outside your store could become something of a local landmark.
Of such things are top quality PR made – not just local but national, even international. If you have the skills in house, get the chalks. Before you do, however, check with the council. There are some awfully mealy-mouthed jobsworths out there who delight in saying ‘you can’t do that’ without any justification. Equally, have your commercial neighbours agreement. They ought to be keen because it should bring trade to the street.
Then there are your store windows. I am constantly amazed by how little effort many, many retailers put into window displays. This is free or next to free publicity that you can change as often as you like.
Get your suppliers onside on this. The good reps will be giving you ideas anyway, but ask them all anyway. Since the typical rep covers a big area these days, ask them what has been done elsewhere. Obviously you want to know about the successes but ideas with so- so results are worth hearing too. With a bit of imagination, a subtle tweak here or there, someone else’s so-so could become a big winner for you. (Failures are worth hearing about as well, so you don’t copy them).
Ask yourself what you want to achieve from a window display. Dead obvious, get the customer through the door. Sure, but that’s not all. Some people with an interest in the promoted product will genuinely not have the time to come in. Some will have no interest in buying personally, but know someone who does.
Aim to keep the window constantly changing – new brands, new products, the seasonal sporting changes, there’s plenty of scope. Again get the input of your suppliers who should be forming a queue for such an opportunity.
I would also aim to show some of the store’s personality in the window. For instance congratulate local clubs, teams and individuals who have achieved something notable. Don’t overdo this, but recognition of achievement by a local business is something sportsmen and women do value.
So then the prospective customer opens the door and comes in. You are pleased to see him or her. Ideally your store layout allows you to give them a cheery welcome, but more likely it doesn’t. You can, however, at least do this with a hanging sign.
I’d suggest a store map – nice and simple, based on which sports are where. I would also look at providing this as an A5 physical leaflet. I do not believe that the principle applied in grocery retailing of having customers wandering the aisles and making extra purchases applies in sports retailing. Sports people want to go straight to the right aisle. They may bimble about a bit afterwards and pick up the additional purchase, but help them make that primary purchase first.