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5 Events to Drive Traffic During the Lazy Days of Summer

Ah summertime! Time for beach days, backyard barbecues, blue skies . . . and the dreaded summer slump.

With fluctuating schedules and little to no gift-giving holidays from the end of May until the start of school, store traffic often takes a nosedive. So what’s a retailer to do? Twiddle his thumbs and hope for the best? No! If you can’t beat the summer months, join in the fun.

Here are five fun ideas for you to try in your store this summer.

1. Soak Up Some Sun

With warmer weather and longer days, it’s a breeze to have an outdoor event this time of year. Have a simple sidewalk sale with discounted items on a table or a display outside your store. Consider partnering with a local festival or fair where you could have a booth with a well-rounded sampling of your store product. Or create your own event.

Kim Burns and Bill Sharp of Living Room Christian Books & Gifts in Bastrop, TX, have an annual Big Tent Sale, where they set up some pop-up tents and signs, pull out some tables and markdown clearance items from the store.

“It always brings in customers, because people passing by see the tables and are always interested in a ‘good sale,’” Kim says.

This is also a good way to sell slightly damaged products, products that have not moved or products that can no longer be returned. “It might not add up to a ‘huge sale day’ in sales numbers,” she says. “But it loosens up cash flow and gives us an opportunity to clean the sales floor to start bringing in fall and Christmas product.”

2. Welcome Visitors

Although your regular customers may be out of town, new customers may be visiting your area this time of year. If your store is in a tourist hotspot, tap into that market. Reach out to local businesses, hotels or B&Bs to see if you can include a store voucher at their front desk or advertise in their marketing materials.

3. Get Social

Even if your usual customers are away, they can stay connected to you through social media. In fact, they may be more active on social media this time of year, posting pictures of their summer vacations.

Have a monthly contest to keep your followers engaged, or like Donna McCollough from Dove Christian Supply in Dothan, AL, host weekly events starting after Memorial Day.

“Last year is when we started our regular Summer LIVE Series on Facebook,” Donna says. “People seemed to like it, and it was a good opportunity to move older stock, call attention to new items and go more in depth on books. They were Markdown Mondays, What’s New Wednesdays and Friday Reads . . . not too original, but it worked.”

4. Start a Club

With more travel and leisure during the summer months, people have more time and motivation to enjoy a good book. Meet your customers’ needs by starting a book club. You can easily recommend authors, order books and get them plugged into your store.

Last summer, Rachel Savage of Watermark Christian Store in West Melbourne, FL, had a book club for fiction readers. For customers who were hesitant to come into the store, she used her Facebook page to weekly introduce new fiction titles, and the book club loved it. She said when she would post book information on Facebook, she would start getting responses from customers asking her, “Please order that book for me.”

Even though her sales were down from last year, she had several bright spots. One of which was that her fiction sales increased and were higher than normal.

5. Try Something New

If you have some down time in your store, take advantage of the opportunity to try something new this year. While businesses often cut back on marketing, you can make your store stand out by participating in a marketing group catalog.

Donna McCollough from Dove Christian Supply said, “For July and August, we will be sending out catalogs to our best customers. . . . We usually skip the summer months but figured we would try this as a change.”

Donna also has a special sale during the summer. “We also usually do a summer clearance sale for the mid- to end of July, calling it our Spectacular Summer Dot Sale,” she says. “We add things to our clearance section and try to move old product to get ready for the third and fourth quarter.”

Speaking of products, try testing out a new product line or service. Lorraine Valk of Parable Christian Store of St. Joseph said they are constantly adding product lines that complement their gift selection.

“We’ve added soaps for both men and women. We just had a variety of purses arrive (women buy them elsewhere, why not here?). And we are stocking socks in a wide variety,” Lorraine says. “Last Christmas, I finally learned how to laser family recipes on cutting boards. Now I’m trying to learn how to work with lasering photographs on products that we sell. We just need to keep reinventing ourselves!” CRA

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