In the 30-plus years I spent working in advertising and marketing, one of the most frequently asked questions I got from retailers was "how can I make sure I have successful sale?" While there are no hard and fast answers to this question, there are some guidelines you can follow to maximize your chances of that sale being successful.
First, if your store is in an area with fairly frequent rains (or snows), do not, and I mean, do not have a one-day sale. You put in a lot of work preparing for and advertising a sale and what could be more depressing than sitting in your store for 12 hours on your sale day watching the rain come down and no customers come in?
Second, make the sale a legitimate one. We have one chain of department stores here that has so many sales, we often wonder what its prices would really be during a non-sale week. If you really are clearing out old inventory, don't be afraid to say so. Don't have a moving or going out of business sale unless you really are moving or going out of business. If you have genuine markdowns, feature them. Titles like Carnival of Values, Red Tag Sale or Bargain Days are pretty much clich?s and should be avoided unless you just can't do any better.
People are getting to be very sharp buyers and can usually tell the different between a real bargain and a "sale bargain." Your competition today isn't a store across town that sells the same things you do. It's sources on the Internet like eBay, Overstock.com, and Amazon.com.
How can you beat these Goliaths? There's only one way I can think of and that's personal service. You might not be able to sell your merchandise cheaper than Amazon.com or Overstock.com, but you can treat customers like royalty and everybody likes to be treated as if they were someone special. Keep track of your customers' names and addresses so that you can send them special offers, a thank you note for shopping with you or, depending on the nature of your store, a newsletter.
In this same vein, I also like to see retailers give customers an extra- special reason to come in the store. Free giveaways are powerful even if they seem tired. Try offering something free to the first 25 or 50 customers to give people a reason to come in the story early. It doesn't have to be anything expensive; people love to get free stuff even if it has little value. If your business is antiques and collectibles, maybe there is an inexpensive "super wax for furniture" you could give the first 25 customers. If yours is a jewelry store, how about free silver polish? A tire store could offer a free tire gauge. Or if you own a liquor store, how about a booklet of drink recipes? And so on.
So far as advertising is concerned, you will want to run ads a couple of days in advance of the sale and you should buys as large an ad as you can possibly afford. I have seen too many retailers cheap out with small ads that are barely noticeable and then wonder where the customers are. In fact, given a small ad budget, I feel it's better to run only one big ad the day before your sale than two or three small ads.
Following these suggestions won't guarantee a successful sale but it will help ensure your next sale goes great!
Article by Douglas Hanna. Douglas is a retired advertising and marketing executive and long-time Denver resident. He is the webmaster of http://www.all-in-one-info.com, a free resource for information on a variety of subjects. Please visit his site to subscribe to his free newsletter, "Tips & Tricks to Save Money & Live Better."