BY BARRY BERMAN
Hosting in-store events accomplishes many objectives. For example, these occa- sions are a great way to increase the number of times customers come in and buy while also cementing relationships with them. If done well enough, they give
your business a unique personality as an environment of entertainment and learning
instead of just a place to buy supplies, thus encouraging customers to become loyal.
The fun and feeling of personal contact customers have at events can’t be experienced
on a computer, which means that events provide a unique way to help a store compete
with online retailers.
Many store owners hold only as many events as they themselves have time to
manage. Some hold the same handful of adoption events every year, leaving the promotion to the outside adoption groups. To achieve the goals of making a business
prominent in the minds of people in your community, a store owner needs to hold
Don’t limit yourself to what you and your current staff can do; instead make a
list—a long list—of all the events you want to host, and hire someone for enough
hours that it will take to organize them. You do not have to take a trained pet products
specialist off the sales floor to do this job. The events person you hire could be someone
Barry Berman is president and co-founder of NexPet, a co-op for
independent retailers, and Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals pet
food company. He is also vice chairman of World Pet Association.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
B&B Pet Stop is a great example of how hosting
engaging and fun in-store events on a regular
basis can increase customer loyalty.
from the community with different talents, such as writing, art or social media. This
person should also handle the key task of publicizing and advertising events, which
should include a mix of in-store, social media and traditional outreach.
B&B Pet Stop in Mobile, Ala., doesn’t hold three or four events a year—it holds
three or four events a week. In addition to once-a-year events such as pet photos
around Halloween, Thanksgiving and other annual holidays, the large full-line store
sponsors activities that can be repeated weekly or monthly. Every
Tuesday is 2-fer Tuesday, during which freshwater fish and plants
are on sale at “buy one, get one for 2-cents.” The last Friday of every month is Salty Friday, when buying one saltwater item gets a
customer half off on another. Customers can count on these events
Categories other than aquatic livestock and supplies lend themselves to recurring weekly or monthly sales, as well. How about
2-fer Tuesdays every Tuesday on dog treats? Most stores could use
a traffic boost on Tuesdays, and folks who come in will buy other
things. If you are afraid that customers will buy fewer treats on
other days, you’re right—but next time they go to the supermarket
or Walmart, their treat cabinet will already be full. As for monthly sales, use them for categories you wish customers would buy
monthly but don’t. For example, you could hold Dog Toy Thursday
the first Thursday of every month or Cat Toy Friday the last Friday
of every month.
Another weekly event at B&B is Wet Dog Wednesday, during
which customers can use the self-service dog wash for a very low
price. At Community Adoption Days, held every Thursday after-
noon at B&B for many years, area residents bring litters of dogs and
cats to a covered outdoor area in front of the store for other mem-
bers of the public to select. Many rules govern this event, including
requiring those who bring pets to stay with them until they are ad-
opted, or take them home. B&B gives pet adopters a mountain of
coupons to be used in the store. In addition, two large outside rescue groups each hold
adoptions every month inside the store, which, alone, gives the store another 24 events
a year. The combination of all these programs means that, over the years, thousands of
locals have felt a connection to the store because that is where they got their pet.
Having a large number of regular, predictable events has an added benefit. As locals make repeat visits to pick up bargains or ogle the animals, they begin to recognize
members of your staff, who have made an effort to develop friendships with them.
People have so few opportunities to shop at places where friends work that they go out
of their way to patronize them. If you have a fun and friendly store pet, customers will
want to visit him repeatedly, too. If you don’t think you can come up with enough ideas
to keep an events person busy, ask your distributor representatives what other stores
are doing or have someone research the topic online. NexPet members have access to
135 event ideas that have been shared by other members.
Don’t forget to participate in events outside the store, too. Parks departments and
community organizations seem to be holding activities at which pets are welcome in
an increasing number, so be on the lookout for them. These are great opportunities to
grab new customers, as long as you give away aggressive coupons and sample items
that people might not otherwise try.
Having regular events has many benefits. Locals who make repeat visits will begin to
recognize staff members who have made an effort to develop friendships with them.
The staff at B&B Pet Stop in Mobile, Ala., hosts three
to four events or in-store activities each week. B & B