Preparing and stocking for recital season takes retailers months, even a year, of preparation. As recital dates approach, everything needs to be in place, so that dancers find their required gear—leotards, costumes, pointe shoes, hair accessories and beyond—at their fingertips. It’s an exciting season for retailers, too. While back-to-school usually generates the biggest revenues, recital season is also critical to many stores’ bottom lines.
To get ready, storeowners stay in constant contact with studios throughout the year to find out in advance what dancers’ needs are. In-studio trunk shows, pop-up shops and Instagram posts are a few of the ways retailers stay on top of their recitals business from beginning to end (show time!).
Here, several retailers share their tips and strategies for preparing for recitals, and how they work with studios and dancers during this hectic season.
Tights, leotards, undergarments, hairnets and pins, and, of course, shoes are all in stock at Ballerina Boutique in Colorado Springs, CO, when recitals roll around. But it’s a year-round business, says owner Caitlin Hopwood. “We usually have good stock, but we’ll order all year long (for recitals). We usually check stock of everything by January and February, before early spring hits for recitals season.”
The exact merchandise mix at Ballerina Boutique typically depends on the different studios’ requirements. The emphasis is on basics over costumes, Hopwood says, but she will order whatever a student needs for a recital.
Throughout the year, Hopwood stays in touch with studios to review recital schedules. The retailer gives each studio its own exclusive week of discounts, consulting with them beforehand on the best week. “It’s usually a few weeks before their individual performances, so they have everything they need,” says Hopwood. Doing separate discount weeks “works for us, because we don’t get flooded all at once.” Dancers and dance moms like it, too. “People like the idea that it’s only for their studio,” she says. “It’s inclusive, and dance moms are all about that. It speaks to them, it’s less stress and it’s customized.”
Before a studio’s designated week, Hopwood will visit the studio and have a small trunk show to show off some of the new items to try on and to take any early orders, which she’ll later deliver to studios for customers to pick up. Hopwood also sends out a reminder flyer to the studios and an e-mail blast to the students. She refrains from using social media during discount period to keep each studio’s week private. (Overall, discounts during recital season are studio-focused, while other general sales and promotions for everyone happen throughout the year.)
A Personal Touch
At The Dance Bag in Modesto, CA, recital time brings discounts and in-store events tied to merchandise. The retailer holds a spring sale in late April, offering 15 percent off entire purchases, and a tied-in pointe shoe decorating contest. To help customers in the store easily find what they need for recitals, owner Holly Bertucci and her staff put out small baskets with dance studio logos on them containing that studio’s required tights and other products. She also makes sure necklaces, bracelets, puzzles for backstage play, cards and other gift items from vendors such as Dasha Designs, Pink Poppy and American Dance Supply are in stock for recital time.
For recitals customers, The Dance Bag offers basic apparel and shoes but not costumes, although the store will go the extra mile to help studio owners by staying in constant touch with them by phone to discuss their recitals needs. It also offers on-site stitching and repairs. “Pointe shoes are our biggest thing, so we sew ribbons and elastic on shoes once they have been purchased,” says Bertucci. “We require dancers to sew their first pair, but after that we will do them. I also make personal calls and e-mail to make sure they know we have their tights in stock and ask if they need anything else for the performance.”
At Pirouette Dancewear, tights are big sellers year-round, but particularly during recitals. Aside from the basic necessities, the retailer offers a full pointe shoe program, which includes group fittings (6 to 30 dancers at a time), 10 percent discounts and accessory orders at its Huntington, NY, location.
Pirouette’s recitals business is as big as its back-to-school season, says store co-owner Stephanie Swensen. To showcase everything for recitals and expand the store’s market, Swensen recently tested a small pop-up in Mattituck, NY, within a dance group’s building. “It’s small and adorable but has everything girls in that area [the North Fork of Long Island] will need, no more, no less,” she says. “We are trying to bring pop-ups out to the East End of the island with our Pirouette the Petite East End Boutique.”
Facebook and Instagram allow Swensen to keep in touch with clients and promote new products or sales during recital time. She also attends as many performances as she can, then posts something about the show, or congratulates the students on Instagram or Facebook. “I really enjoy seeing my clients using the products that they have gotten from the store,” she says. “It’s nice to see our pointe shoes in action and the progress that each girl makes from year to year.”
In the end, nurturing these relationships with studios and dancers is the key to strong recital sales. “They get excited that I was there, which also makes me feel good,” says Swensen. “That is the kind of relationship I have with my clients. They aren’t just people who shop in the store. They are people who are a part of my life. I feel like we are all on this dance journey together, and when I get texts or e-mails about how someone is doing even after they have moved forward with their lives, it’s special.”
Tina Benitez-Eves is a New York City–based freelance writer who regularly contributes to Dance Retailer News.
Photos courtesy of the retailers