Seen & Heard: How Retailers Make Sales Memorable Store Experiences

Story time (and 10 percent off) at Dancin’ Soul Boutique

As great as any retailer’s product selection may be—seasonally or around the big back-to-school or holiday rush—retailers have to constantly find new ways to keep the traffic (and sales) up throughout the year, particularly during slower periods like summer or post-holiday. Having a sale has traditionally been a way retailers drive traffic into a store. But generic sales events aren’t enough to attract today’s consumers. Whether it’s a monthlong, markdown sale with extended hours, an in-store event built around a brand of dancewear or gear, or something completely out-of-the-box (think story time, then dancing), dance retailers are experimenting with new ways to tap into sales year-round.

Stories to Remember, and a 10 Percent Discount

Dancin’ Soul Boutique in Carlsbad, CA, is always looking for new ways to draw customers in, and over the years it has tested various sales ideas, including a Happy Hour sale that offered customers 20 percent off all adult dance and workout clothes between 5 and 7 pm. Last June, owner Della Stewart started a free story time and creative movement class every Thursday at 11:30 am for younger dancers. Initially, the retailer offered the events to boost summer sales, but it quickly turned into a weekly gathering. “We read a couple of books to the kids—mostly preschool age—and then play some music and do simple dances with them like hokey-pokey and freeze dance,” says Stewart.   

Each event typically brings in a 4 to 10 kids, a small enough group to feel intimate. To sweeten the deal, attendees get a 10 percent discount on any purchases made during story time.

On staff is a dance teacher, who is also a professional dancer, and either she or Stewart are always on hand to read and to dance with the kids while the other handles customer purchases. The events are promoted on Facebook and Instagram, in addition to a sign in the store window.

“It has definitely increased business on Thursday mornings by an average of 10 percent,” says Stewart, who adds that she is seeing a lot of the same customers coming back for more—and with friends. “The best part is I have no increased overhead to create a community- service-type event since it is free to the participants, and it has increased sales. We love Thursdays now.”

Warehouse Wear

By the time the holiday rush is over, Nathalie Velasquez, owner of Nathalie & Co. Dancewear and Little Things in Phoenix, wants any product that’s more than six months old out the door. She has merchandise ready to go—at up to 90 percent off!

The store’s Annual Warehouse Sale kicks off on the first of January with clothes, shoes and more marked down every day for an entire month. Instagram followers can get a sneak peek at some of the items, which keeps interest up all month. “I’ll post the description of the price or the savings or discount—whichever sounds like they save the most—and that’s what usually gets them in the door,” says Velasquez, who keeps the store open later during sale time, until 9 or 10 pm.

In addition to shedding inventory, the Annual Warehouse Sale encourages loyal customers to return to the store after the holidays, says Velasquez—and she’s found they buy new stuff. This year, 8 out of 10 of the store’s most frequent customers who came in for the sale didn’t purchase much from clearance but instead bought newer items. The sale also attracts bargain shoppers, who may not have visited the store before.

Velasquez has stopped printing any advertisements and promotes the event entirely digitally using email marketing, Facebook event invites, Instagram posts and stories. “Ads on social media have given us the biggest return on investment,” says Velasquez. “I highly suggest posting on the stories, new or older items, as much as possible. Our average open rate on e-mail is about 20 percent. This past Annual Warehouse Sale, we had about 10,000 viewed messages that led to about 26 percent in coupon redemptions, which was roughly $7,000 in extra sales.”

Not Just a Straight Sale

Manufacturer- and brand-focused events and free gifts with purchases have made all the difference in sales for Allegro Dance Boutique, which has locations in Evanston and Barrington, IL. The retailer tries to hold an event several times per month and will often extend hours when necessary. Recently, the retailer brought in four new styles of Capezio pointe shoes and held a weekend-long event that included a 20 percent off discount on other items when shoes were purchased. In the past, it has also held a “Made in America” sale, showcasing the store’s inventory of American-manufactured brands, including Jule Dancewear, Bullet Pointe and Gaynor Minden. “We noticed that straight sales aren’t always the best way to get people into the store,” says Aly Heintz Raddatz, director of operations at Allegro. “Oftentimes, we ended up just giving a discount on something people were already planning on buying.”

Allegro takes several factors into consideration when holding a sales event: time of the year they want a revenue boost; the schedules of the bigger studios in the area; and the dance season (Nutcracker, recital, etc.). Dancer availability is also considered, including free time during the summer since school is out.

To promote sale events, the stores put flyers up, do social media posts and even e-mail and call customers. “As a by-dancers-for-dancers company, we try to create events that involve our community or truly support it,” says Heintz Raddatz. “It’s a win-win for everyone. We also will personally invite customers, which makes them feel important and recognizes that they’re a valued customer.”

She adds: “We do events with different intentions. Sure, we’re always trying to increase an average purchase or drive foot traffic into the store, but sometimes it’s about reinforcing our connection to our dance community.”

Tina Benitez-Eves is a New York City–based writer and editor who often covers retail and small business.

Photo courtesy of Dancin’ Soul Boutique

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