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T.J. Reid Says: It's Time To Promote!

Monday, April 30, 2007

T.J. Reid Says: It's Time To Promote!Looking for ideas for profit-boosting promotions, especially those that showcase your assortment of fashion accessories? This month, contributing editor Sharon Bopp talks promotions and more with T.J. Reid, author of the recently-released "What Mother Told Ya About Promotions," editor of Fashion Advantage newsletter and retail consultant to the fashion and gift industries.

Q. What promotional ideas do you have for stores that cannot or do not rely on "passerby" shoppers?

A. I think that retailers don't spend enough time on their current customers. If [store owners] spent more time and money taking care of what they have, rather than looking for new customers, they would realize more profit. Eighty percent of their money comes from 20% of customers. The emphasis should always be on taking care of the customers you have and doing promotions that draw them back to the store.

Direct mail and email are the primary ways to do this. When you have a good mailing list, you have a mainline directly to that 20% of customers and can keep them aware of what's going on. With an email list, you can have a promotion ready in 15 minutes and contact customers immediately. For example, if you come in on a Monday morning and it's raining, you can create a "Rainy Day Sale." Take five minutes to write the email, include a map for getting to the store and some sort of incentive and then take one second to push the key to send the email out to your customer list! Except for your time and effort, there's no cost involved for this spur-of-the-moment promotion. Give customers an incentive to come in. I've also had retail clients who do construction sales that they call "Back Door Sales" or "Another Way to Find Us Sales."

I have an account in North Carolina, and the owner is the best retailer I know at using her email. When North Carolina State was in the hockey finals, she did some kind of email promotion on the day after every game. She might report that "We won last night's game, so today everything red is 10% off" or "Come in and say 'Go Red' and receive 10% off." She does this constantly with things that are happening in the world, and uses seasonal events like holidays.

Q. Why do you prefer promotional gifts over discounts?

A. In my seminars I always say: "People expect discounts. They appreciate gifts." I think customers get more excited about [the concept of a] gift with purchase, like "Buy a pair of shoes, and get a free pair of socks." A gift is a much better reward than a discount, and will be remembered much longer, too.

Q. What about building a store email list by sharing lists with other local store owners?

A. You can trade mailing lists with businesses that deal with mostly women clientele, like hairdressers, tanning salons, diet centers, dry cleaners and florists. This helps both of you reach new customers that are real-life, validated customers that you know do exist. It's also an obvious cost savings. Businesses tend to keep their mailing lists clean. I've found that purchased mailing lists are usually unreliable and have poor response rates. [Generally], they are made-up lists, unless you are very specific with your needs when you're talking to the list company.

Q. You also favor creating joint promotions with local businesses. Can you give our readers an example of this type of promotion?

A. April is National Reading Month, National Lingerie Month and National Home De corating Month. To celebrate these when I had my store, I did a display themed around reading. A local furniture dealer loaned me a bed, which I put in the store window. The department store loaned me bed linens. The local florist made a silk floral arrangement which I borrowed and put next to the bed. The pharmacist gave me a box of Russell Stover candy, which I opened and put on the bed.

I dressed a mannequin in lingerie and showed her lying on the bed and reading a book. In the window, a sign read "Celebrate National Reading Month. A percentage of your purchases goes to our local library." People loved it! Plus, every borrowed item had a tag that said, for example, "Bed linens from XYZ Department Store." At the checkout counter, customers could sign up for a library card. We gave 2% of that month's sales, or about $600, to the library to help buy books.

Q. Why is it important to tell customers who won a store giveaway or how much was donated to a certain cause?

A. If you do anything that involves a prize, people want to know who won. That's the point of having a contest! The customer trusts you, but wants [that information]. A Texas retailer I know sends out an email announcement the second somebody wins something in her store. The email can simply say "Mary Jones won $100 because she shopped at XYZ Gift Store!" You can also piggyback that email message with other information like "By the way, we just unpacked the latest new key chains from Brighton" or "Welcome back Margaret, who was out on maternity leave. Come in and see her." Or you could announce a new employee, new store hours or an upcoming store event or welcome a new business neighbor.

Q. How can retailers get customers to come see their new items?

A. You can use email and direct mail here, too. Some stores can put items out on a scheduled basis like on Tuesdays and Thursdays or Mondays and Fridays. Let customers know when there's new merchandise and when it will go out [on the floor]. That gets people excited because there are certain customers who always want to be the first person to see the merchandise and to know what's in style. Be sure to create a window display [of new merchandise], if you are in a location where people pass by. Another reminder: The right-hand front of your store layout is primary space. It's the space that's seen first because by human nature most people are right handed and look to the right when they enter a store. That's where you should put new merchandise.

Q. In your book, you mention promotions for monthly holidays. Can you share some ideas with Giftbeat readers?

A. June is International Men's Month, which can be tied into Father's Day displays. In my store, I always ran a newspaper ad for Father's Day (which could now be done as an e-ad or direct mail postcard) with a picture of my husband with our daughter. Later on, it was a picture of my son with his children. The quote that ran with it said: "A good father takes his son fishing; a great father takes his daughter shopping." The ad said that all children who came in to buy a Father's Day gift received a free mug that said "Father" on it. You can also mention that children can serve their dads coffee in bed.

July 24th is Cousins' Day, and the month of July is a traditional sale time. Offer a bargain for cousins who shop your store together. Give a coupon that can be passed on to other cousins, even "kissing cousins."

August is Girlfriends Month, plus there's National Smile Week during the second week and National Friendship Week on the third week. There's also a Best Friends Day in August. One of my favorite August store promotions was "August Photos with Santa Claus...For Ladies Only." We'd have a good-looking guy with a nice tan who wore a beard, Santa hat, Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts. Customers could have their picture taken with him. The ad said "Beat the holiday rush. Have your photo taken now, while you have a great tan!" A promotion like that is what makes your store different. Dillard's would never do that!

Grandparent's Day is the second Sunday in September. It is a "Hallmark holiday" that [that company] created. Hallmark and florists are the only ones that take advantage of it. The only reason [your customers] don't buy for Grandparent's Day is because nobody reminded them. They need to be informed about this holiday with something like "Buy this for your mother-in-law for Grandparent's Day. [Adult children] would want to make sure that their kids bought a gift. They don't want grandparents to get mad. This is a missed opportunity for retailers, especially with the age of their customers. There are so many grandparents out there now, and there are so many people you could make happy by promoting this holiday. Make buying quick, easy and affordable with a table that [features signage with] "Grandparent gifts for $25 or less."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the ins and outs of trunk shows?

A. Trunk shows are an invitation thing. This promotion is like a birthday party: You can spend all the money you want to on the cake and decorations, but if you forget to send an invitation, nobody's coming. Targeted advertising is especially important with trunk shows. Companies like Brighton and Vera Bradley furnish postcards, plus there's email.

If you're having a trunk show for prom jewelry, you need to try to reach high school juniors and seniors. Try to find what rock station they listen to, and only run a radio ad between 7 and 8 in the morning when they're driving to school and from 3 to 5 in the afternoon when they're leaving school.

Most people expect an incentive like a discount or gift for attending a trunk show. Remember that a gift is remembered longer. Don't expect huge crowds at a trunk show. Most are small events with large ticket sales. Before (attendees) get there, in their minds they are pre sold. Almost everybody who shows up buys something.

Make sure you have ample current stock of the line in your store the day of the event. If I'm a Brighton customer, I like Brighton and I want to buy it. I will buy some that day, in addition to what I've ordered to come in later, because I want to go home with something. An educated, informed staff is important for trunk shows. You also have to have enough staff on hand so people get personal attention and feel special.

Q. What are your thoughts about loyalty and frequent buyer programs?

A. People like to belong. The more club-type relationships you can form with your customers, the more customers you will keep close at hand. These relationships are built on loyalty, friendship and rewards. You can have Birthday Clubs, Frequent Buyer Clubs, Loyalty Clubs and Referral Clubs. One retailer I know has a club of Busy Bees, or customers who buzz about her store all the time. If someone comes in and says "Margaret told me about your store," Margaret gets a $5 store coupon. Another store calls it a "Blabbermouth Club." When the store has an upcoming event or promotion, the owner calls twelve customers who have promised to call twelve other customers which becomes 144 calls! Note: You can reach Reid at 800-221-8615 or To order a copy of "What Mother Never Told Ya About Promotions," log on to

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