Seen & Heard: Be the Go-to Store for Dance Moms

Mary Ann’s Dance and More owner Mary Hanlon (right) with participants at one of the store’s Girls’ Night Out events.

Think about it—your largest group of dancewear customers are not even dancers themselves. That’s right. Dance moms make up the biggest category of people shopping at your store. So how do you make sure you provide the best shopping experience for these special customers?

First of all, consider the age of these shoppers—dance moms aren’t one homogeneous group. Generation X moms are more likely to shop in local stores than millennial moms who grew up with technology at their fingertips. Older Gen Xers can be found on Facebook, while younger ones and millennials are making tracks to Instagram. And it won’t be long before digital-native Gen Z moms are heading into dance studios and stores—and they live on YouTube.

One thing does unite all dance moms, though: They are busy and will prioritize convenience over everything else. “I’m inclined to buy everything online now,” says Yazmin Jason, a dance mom of two in Cheshire, CT. Dance stores have to give me a better incentive to come into their store.”

Any dance mom can relate. Just look at Ashley Kelly, owner of Dance Depot in South Daytona, FL. “I am a dance mom and totally understand the crazy busy-ness of life with multiple children participating in different activities,” she says. “That’s part of the reason I will bend over backward for my customers.”

Kelly knows that to grab the attention of dance moms in her community she must do more than just offer the best product and prices. Here are four ways you can grab the attention of dance moms.

Make Shopping Superconvenient

Danielle Hernandez, owner of On 1 Dancewear in Englewood, NJ, keeps her store open late one night a week so moms who work long hours can make it into the store. “We offer multiple late nights during back-to-school season,” she adds. “We are also open on Saturdays.” 

On 1 Dancewear offers online shopping via its website.

On 1 Dancewear also offers online ordering, which Hernandez says helps her maintain the business of mothers who live farther away, as well as younger moms. “Millennial moms are a little more detached from the personal shopping experience,” she says. “They tend to browse our website and ask us to hold things, and a lot of them pay over the phone.”

Kelly doesn’t offer online shopping but she still captures the business of those millennial moms by allowing them to place orders over the phone. “I do have customers who will call us ahead of time so they can run in and pick up a purchase quickly or send someone else to pick it up,” she says. “We pull those items and keep them behind our counter with their name on the bag ready to go.” 

Create a Comfortable Environment 

You can make several design adjustments to your store that moms will love. Most important, having a play area for younger dancers and any siblings in tow will help keep everyone happy. Hernandez herself has a two-year-old son who often comes into the store, so she has a small area with toys set up. 

Kelly has a small table stocked with coloring books and crayons for kids. “It is a tremendous help to the moms to keep the smaller children entertained,” she says. “Most younger siblings already know where it is and head straight there when they come in.”

As for your merchandise, keep the most important products front and center so moms can easily find what they are looking for. “Our 10-foot-plus tights wall in the back of the store is where most head—you can’t miss it,” says Mary Ann Hanlon, owner of Mary Ann’s Dance and More in Easthampton, MA.

Add Special Services Moms Love

Certainly there are some things moms just can’t get online, like expert fittings and pointe shoe ribbon sewing. These special services can help you draw them in. Hanlon uses her POS system to track each item purchased by each customer so it is easy to search the size they bought during a previous visit. Kelly does the same. She has electronic records for each customer that date back to 2005. “It is especially helpful when a mom or dad is shopping without their child and needs to check the previous sizes purchased,” she says. 

In addition to making shopping efficient by having customer sizes and style preferences handy when customers come in, Hernandez also offers ribbon sewing, costume ordering and customizations such as embroidery, screen-printing and stud application. These extra services help set her apart from online competitors who can’t offer these personalized touches. 

Kelly says she’s even gone into a studio to hand-deliver purchases to parents with kids who dance with her daughters. “If I will already be there, I will bring items with me to drop off to their kids at the studio to save them a trip to my store,” she says. “Or I’ll let them pay by phone and then send their items with another parent from the same studio.” 

“Even though I would prefer to have all of my customers come inside my store, if I’m already going to be there and it’s not an inconvenience to me, I don’t mind doing that every once in a while,” she adds.

Host Events for Moms

Hanlon hosts special girls’ night out events in her store on the second Friday of every month, August through May, to capture dance moms in her community. “We all need other things in our lives besides just work and dance competitions,” she says. “Those events bring people to the store and show that we are involved in the community.”

Event themes have been paint night (the most popular, so far, she says), pampering night and special shopping events. While moms get to enjoy a social event, Hanlon also benefits—from the customer loyalty and support these types of events help to establish. 

Hanlon invites all of her customers, but she says that dance moms usually come in larger groups when the competition season is over and when dance is not in full swing for their daughters. 

With events like these, your store can become a place where dance moms frequently gather to exchange advice and anecdotes, just as they do in the lobby of any dance studio. Go the extra mile, and they’ll be talking about you. 

Libby Basile is a freelance writer and dance mom in Cheshire, CT. In between writing assignments she drives her daughter to dance class, purchases new tights and is always on the hunt for the next great leotard.