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April 10, 2017

By Gregg A. Bernhardt

Let’s talk a bit about hosting events in your store.

As a store owner, you’re busy. You have a million things to worry about each day, and events are just one more hassle to add to your never-ending to-do list. Plus, they suck money from your budget. You can probably rattle off a bunch of reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t host events for your customers—I don’t have the money or the space, people just aren’t interested, my staff is too small, I can’t think of anything fun or don’t know where to start. Sound familiar?

As someone who’s hosted events in his central New Jersey store over the past 10 years, I can say with certainty that events will help grow your business. They’re worth the time, money and effort. It’s important to start somewhere and get events on your calendar in order to help keep your business relevant and in the forefront of your customers’ minds. Regardless of what you decide to do, here are a few thoughts to help you get started and be confident about your events:

Dare to be Different
Pet guardians are always looking for fresh, fun and different events to attend with their pets, so step outside of your comfort zone and give them the chance to do so—at YOUR store! When customers are excited about an event, they’ll advertise it for you and generate buzz in the form of personal invites and social media posts with little effort from you! When brainstorming ideas for events for your store, consider the following:

• What’s going on in/around town that people are talking about? Can I piggyback off these events or partner with these businesses/organizations in any way?
• What major and not-so-major holidays are coming up? A quick Google search for “pet holidays” yields some interesting options. Use these days to highlight products and services!
• Is there a particular activity/hobby that is popular in my area that I can offer in my store, or can I offer a complimenting service/product to that interest?
• Is my town known for something I can adapt for pets? For instance, if your community has a great diner scene, why not host a “Sock Hop Night” at your store?

Battle of the Budget
You don’t have to purchase huge, lavish props and decorations for your events. With the recent explosion in popularity of websites like Etsy, Pinterest and Buzzfeed, even the most creatively-challenged person can get step-by-step instructions on how to create some awesome accessories on the cheap.

Hit up your local dollar, craft and thrift stores to acquire materials you’ll need to create decorations, props, signs, invitations, prizes and more. And when it comes to advertising the event, utilize social media to get the word out. It’s easy, quick and free and reaches your customers on their phones and computers.

Quality Over Quantity
With any event you host at your store, set out to provide an experience for your customers. They’re attending your function to get something out of it. Whether it’s education, a discount, a solution to a problem or an afternoon of fun, be sure that you’re providing what they’re seeking. For existing customers, it reaffirms why they shop with you. And for new customers, it’s their first impression of your business.

Finally, have the courage to try something new when you host an event in your store. Is there a chance it will flop? Absolutely. I’ve had my own share of stinkers. Without them, though, we can’t identify the true successes. So long as you promise yourself that you’ll learn from and improve with each experience, there’s no such thing as a pointless event.

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