The summer season is in full swing. And while tourist and hospitality industries generally see a boon in sales, traditional retail often sees sales cool as the temperatures heat up. This slump in sales is due to many shoppers choosing to spend their money on trips, outdoor concerts and festivals, and sporting events, just to name a couple of examples.
But this slump doesn’t have to be accepted as the status quo. In fact, smart retailers can cash in on the tourism spending this time of year, while still marketing to local customers. Whether your retail business is primarily online or also has brick-and-mortar locations, there are ways to take advantage of the summer selling season by employing a few seasonal sales-boosting strategies.
Check out these summer marketing ideas and see if you can use them in your retail store.
1. Host a summer event
Who doesn’t love a party? The summer months are filled with BBQs and pool parties, so create an event that shoppers will want to attend. Crank up the air conditioning, serve lemonade, and schedule things like an in-store demonstration by one of your suppliers, a free class using some of your products, or a trunk show with your best vendors.
Not only does this increase traffic to your store, but it helps to build a sense of community and customer loyalty.
DermWarehouse, a skincare and beauty retailer, makes more than 85% of their sales online, but still know how important it is to get those in-person sales in their Columbus store. They host a monthly open house event series where customers can partake in giveaways, exclusive promotions, and free skincare consultations.
This has helped them spread the word about their business locally, and they see more than 50 people for each event. Not only that, but those people tell their friends and family, and each event continues to grow — as do sales. These events are a great way to push new products and also get rid of excess inventory. Even if customers don’t shop at the event, they’ll often convert later on.
2. Take advantage of tourists
If you get a good amount of tourists in your city during the summer, promote your store to visitors by distributing flyers at your local welcome center and contacting tour companies to create an exclusive offer for their customers.
More than three-quarters of travelers use review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor when planning their vacation, so make sure you’re listed there and on Google Places. And those travellers are still on social media even when they’re on vacation, so ramp up your efforts online to increase your visibility.
Customers will be posting images from graduation parties, holidays, and vacations; make sure you’re seen in their feed so they’re enticed to shop. Better yet, incentivize them to talk about you on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter by offering vacationers a discount coupon if they share a photo of themselves on summer vacation using your products and tagging you in the photo.
Consider this example from Lotus Herbals. The brand recently re-posted an image from one its sunblock users — a timely post, considering that summer is in full swing the US.
3. Get outdoors
Foot traffic tends to increase during the warmer summer months for both locals and tourists, so make your visual merchandising something that stops them all in their tracks. If it’s feasible, push your store outside by setting up display tables or racks out in front of your store on the sidewalk. Those passing by will see what you have to offer and most likely want to come inside to see more.
Your windows are key real estate, so make sure you’re visually merchandising these in a fun and creative way that will draw shoppers into your doors. Take advantage of a summer- or travel-themed window display, or simply create a compelling visual collection of products most relevant for warmer months — think hats and visors, sunglasses, lip balm, moisturizers, outdoor toys, etc.
More than just windows, use signage on the sidewalk or walkway so it can’t be missed. If you have a sidewalk easel, tie a few balloons to the sides and promote a sale or new summer merchandise.
Check out this outdoor sign from the fashion retailer DressUp.
Or how about this example shares by Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender on Instagram, in which retailer cleverly used sidewalk chalk to stop people in their tracks.
4. Create limited edition summer products
Speaking of new summer merchandise, now is the perfect time to create or stock limited edition products that cater to the summer months and travellers. Starbucks is the king when it comes to making the most of seasonal products — pumpkin spice latte, anyone? — and last spring they made a splash when they partnered with Lilly Pulitzer to create a summer water bottle that flew off the shelves.
Of course it’s not always possible to partner with a large brand, but every retailer can design seasonal products — mugs, T-shirts, stationery — that will appeal to your shoppers through sites like CafePress, Vistaprint, or Printful. Get creative and generate buzz and a sense of urgency, that if they don’t act now, soon the product will no longer be available.
The macaron shop Chantal Guillon does this really well. The company always creates specially themed macarons for specific seasons and occasions. Have a look at their summer macarons below.
5. Hold a contest
When it comes to that seasonal merchandise, consider holding a contest or giveaway that encourages your customers to submit designs to be featured on limited edition products and rewards them with discounts on the final products. Not only are you keeping your loyal customers involved and invested and engaged in your brand, but you’re also getting great ideas for designs and products that customers actually want.
Everyone likes the chance to win something, so away from the seasonal merchandise, brainstorm ideas that will encourage word-of-mouth advertising all while increasing the traffic to your store. This could mean giving away raffle tickets for a free prize to those who make a purchase or encouraging customers to share their summer pictures on your social media channels. The photo that gets the most likes, gets the gift card to your store.
The goal is to increase interaction and build brand awareness, so make the prize relevant to your brand or products. This is also a great way to help liquidate extra inventory that might be taking up space on your shelves.
6. Create a unique experience
While this should be a goal year-round, summer is a great time to focus on how you can encourage customers to stay in your store and tell all their friends about how unique you are. Consumers will return to your store for an experience, not just for products, so create something completely your own — whether that is an in-store demo/class, a take-home trial, or an on-site expert.
From the music playing in your shop to the seating areas you choose to offer, these aesthetics are key to keeping customers in store once they arrive. Encourage them to stick around longer by offering free Wi-Fi, refreshments, and a clearance bin in the back of the store — shoppers love a good deal! The idea is to offer them more than just a shelf full of products. Offer them something they’ll want to tell their friends and family about.
The apparel retailer William B does a tremendous job with its in-store experience strategy. In addition to carrying products, the employees at William B go above and beyond to ensure that customers have a great time in-store.
Their actions include:
- Serve free champagne
- Offering to take any items off your hands and set up a fitting room so you can brose the store freely
- Provide seating all around the store for your companion (e.g., significant other or kids)
- Offer freebies if you purchase 3 or more items
- Strike up conversations and proactively make product recommendations — e.g., “Did you know that this blouse also comes in black?”
7. Join forces
Is there a retailer nearby in the area that serves a similar audience? Consider partnering up with them to create a combined sale or event. Two heads are better than one, and you get double the advertising and marketing by teaming up with a like-minded business for a new collaborative product launch, giveaway, or summer event. Combine your efforts in a joint email to both of your customer lists, and offer a discount for shopping at each other’s stores.
Not only will you have the added benefit of sharing customers, but you’ll also share the workload — and the rewards.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Vend’s guide to increasing sales. This handy resource offers 10 proven tactics for boosting retail sales and improving your bottom line.
Specifically, you will:
- Discover how to turn savvy shoppers into loyal customers
- Learn how to add real and perceived value to each sale
- Discover the most effective ways to set yourself apart from your competitors
The bottom line
Although you may have seen a sales slump in summers past, that doesn’t always have to be the case. People often have more time to shop in the summer, so take advantage of both tourists and locals that will be walking past your store. Make your store something they can’t resist, and you’ll be well on your way to scorching summer sales.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend’s Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.