I was on the phone this morning with my local luggage store talking about a bag I dropped off for repair. Business is still tough. No doubt. As the double whammy of a retail slump coupled with a travel slump has had a greater impact on this segment of retail than most others.
But consumers are traveling still, albeit not at the same levels. And luggage is still wearing out. After all, you can’t travel when your luggage zipper doesn’t zip.
Back to my conversation with the store employee…When pressed, the person I deal with at the store told me they haven’t really been doing much marketing. Wow! In tough times, you have to do more to pull customers in, not less.
And there in the problem lies. Small retailers, saddled by expenses associated with keeping their doors open have forgone marketing simply because they can’t afford it.
But there are ways to reach out to your customers and drive traffic without it costing a lot of money.
Social Media – all it takes is a little time to set up a Facebook Fan Page or a Twitter account, and 5 minutes to update it daily. It’s a great way to connect with your customers on an instantaneous basis. The medium is most effect when used as an information sharing resouce with an occasional traffic driving offer thown in. Don’t overuse it or your customers will only shop when you throw an offer into the mix.
Neighorhood Associations or Shopping District Marketing – does your shopping street have a desigation as a specific area people go to shop. Does the district market itself? Are you on the website? Does the district hold events? All of these are opportunities for you to drive traffic. If your district isn’t doing this, perhaps it’s time you bring it up and drive toward creating events that will bring customers to the area.
Mall marketing – from store directiories to events, from maps to ad campaigns, malls are great at getting the word out. Go meet with your mall’s marketing team to find out what opportunities they have for you to better market yourself. Sometimes malls are just too big. And you, the small guy get lost in shuffle. Don’t let that happen. You never know what opportunities exist unless you go seek them out.
Grass Roots – this is my favorite. Put flyers and offers at other retailers in your area. And let them do the same. Host an open house for all the neighborhood businesses – offer a bit of food and drink and an offer (say 20% off) to get them in the door. Sure, it’s a one-time shot in the arm, but it’s about reminding them that you’re here and your doors are open. Are there universities you can partner with? Chamber of Commerce? Department of Tourism? Hotel concierges?
Too many independent retailers just sit, feeling sorry for themselves. Don’t be one of them. Doing something is better than doing nothing, right?