Quick wins & top takeaways
- Excess stock? How about a summer sale?
- Get involved in the community and sponsor local events for great PR.
- Take advantage of longer days and increased footfall by extending opening hours.
- Simple actions can mean a lot, like leaving water bowls out for dog owners on hot days.
- Never neglect your online offering
Rethink summer sales
Summer sales are a staple of large retailers and will often be a big draw for bargain hunters, but SMEs shouldn’t feel pressured to compete. If you’re not inundated with excessive stock, don’t reduce your margins if you don’t have to. Tida Finch, co-founder of Jewellery brand Finchittida Finch says "Big brands and high-street chains need to do sales because they pre-order large quantities of stock.”. Do the maths and establish if holding a sale will benefit your business this summer.
If holding a sale is the right way to go for you planning ahead is essential. Work out how much you can afford to reduce your stock by before you start. Maintaining healthy margins are key to running a profitable business. Using an EPOS system is essential to tracking incoming revenue and outgoing costs and allows you to get accurate view of performance. Keep costs as low as possible in regard to employee overtime and advertising costs. Make use of social media to as a free tool to promote your sale.
SMEs are better placed to profit from community events than their corporate counterparts as independents often have more personality and fewer restrictions than big brands. Supporting your local community is mutually beneficial as it encourages residents to visit your shop throughout the year. It’s also an opportunity to get your name, logo and branding out to an audience who live and work in your local area. By investing in the community you build trust and respect which will build customer loyalty.
The summer months are rich with local and regional events such as local fetes, marathons, charity events and markets. Whether you are sponsoring or participating, think of imaginative ways you can get involved and make links to your business. Bakers could judge cake competitions, sports retailers could sponsor school sports days and convenience stores could donate raffle prizes. Local community groups and associations are often desperate for the support so if you can offer money or time they’d be more than happy to support your business in return.
If you’re lucky enough to be positioned in a high profile tourist area, you should absolutely be looking to benefit from this additional summer trade. Partnering with local hospitality businesses is a great way to do this. Cross-promotion can benefit you both. By displaying brochures, posters and/or business cards in your shop, and the other business doing the same for you in return, you can increase footfall for both parties. You could even offer special deals to tourists staying at your partnered hotels and B&Bs.
Does your local tourist authority offer visitors maps? For a small fee, your business could be included on with an image and a logo. Check out other local publications in the area which are likely to be picked up by visitors. The return on investment, particularly in the high tourist season, could be very positive.
Nicer weather means more footfall so you need to find new ways to entice your customer in. If you have space for tables and chairs, or a small stall outside your shop why not bring your business outside. Find engaging ways to display items that pique customer attention. If you can tempt customers to browse you’re halfway to getting them to buy. These can be low-value items if you don’t have the staff available to man outside stalls. If you can’t bring the inside out, why not bring the outside in? A summer theme, decorations or seasonal giveaway can be effective in welcoming customers in store.
Other ways to tempt customers inside include use of window displays and signage. You need to tell your customers are selling and why coming into to your shop is worth their time. You can do this either by words, images or an artistic window display. Use of A-boards is a good way to grab a passerby's attention as it will physically obstruct their path.
It may be easy to get distracted when the sun's out but don’t neglect your website or social media channels. If you’ve gone to the effort of updating your bricks and mortar store for the summer months, why not give your website the same treatment? Your website is a 24-hour brochure for your business so you must ensure it’s an accurate reflection of what you do in terms of branding and style. By making your online offering more engaging you increase your chances of making sales. Update your product descriptions to fit a summer theme, use bright colours and vibrant imagery and don’t forget to include key information about your physical store such as location and contact numbers.
Increased sales from your offline store are a great, but things can quickly turn sour if you have managed your stock correctly. Having to go back to a customer to tell them you are out of stock can severely damage the customer experience. Good inventory management is essential to avoiding customer disappointment. Using a fully integrated system like Weebly or Nettl to manage your e-commerce offering allows you to create professional websites, seamlessly connecting your on and offline stores.
Improving sales comes down to improving the customer experience. All retailers are different so survey your options and see what will work for you. Even simple things like extended opening hours to benefit from longer evenings, or leaving a water bowl out for pet owners can be effective in making consumers think positively of your shop. Don’t forget social media is a free and easy tool for you to showcase your products and advertise your services. If you choose to do something to encourage engagement, whether that's holding a sale or sponsoring a community event, remember to shout about it on all your social media!