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Create in-store traffic with special events

'Decorating on a budget resonates with the times

With consumers holding on tightly to their wallets these days, furniture retailers must develop creative ways of generating traffic. From my experience as a special events planner, I know that well-executed educational seminars are relatively low-cost, highly effective traffic generators.

An educational seminar takes away fears of sales pressure. Focusing on helpful hints also adds entertainment value and positions the retailer as a valued partner. Here are my recommendations on how to create a successful event:

  • Begin with your staff– Gather your staff together so they understand the benefits of an event and their roles in making it successful. Ask for their input and assistance in calling your best customers and prospects with a personal invitation.

  • Establish a theme – You can’t go wrong these days with “Spruce Up Your Outdoor Spaces — On a Budget” or something similar as a theme line.

  • Multiple days – Think about hosting a two- or three-day event. Day one focus on decorating, day two on plants and day three on care and maintenance of furniture and fabrics.

  • Bring in experts – Partnerships with non-competitive businesses are invaluable. Consider design and landscaping professionals, interior designers, trusted fabric workrooms and manufacturers’ reps.

  • Offer prizes – Drawings for prizes create excitement. Why not offer in-home design consultations as prizes for potential up-selling and cross-selling?

  • Create vignettes – Create a variety of outdoor and indoor idea rooms incorporating furniture, accessories, plants, throws, outdoor rugs, draperies – the works.

  • Press coverage – Invite the local newspaper and television stations to cover your event. Prepare a handout and contact home editors and TV assignment editors.

  • Helpful suggestions – Make your seminar heavy with great ideas on a budget – new covers for pillows, umbrella fabric replacements, colorful table skirts and draperies made of performance fabrics and accessories of all kinds. Include handouts.

Every retailer should have a database of customers’ and prospective customers’ e-mail addresses because e-mail is the lowest cost way of inviting people to special events. Consider creating a VIP list.

The most important part of any event is to be sure your salespeople call the respondents to confirm attendance. Staging a special event gives your salespeople a reason to call their best customers and prospects, which helps to guarantee a solid turnout and can result in sales or referrals.

With good planning and careful execution, informational events are a sure-fire way of generating traffic. Best of all, these events create a community of supporters who will tell their friends and become loyal, long-term customers.

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