museums&MORE Fall 2019
Merchandising and display hacks for special event retailers

Five ways to reel in and retain today's fickle consumers

The novelty industry in America is booming, bringing in an estimated 16 billion dollars each year. Still, special event and novelty retailers face a unique challenge that sets them apart from typical department stores and large chains: With such a specific market and depending on the time of year — business can be tough to drum up — and that affects your bottom line. In an age where online shopping is dominating the retail world at warp-speed, there are some steps you can take to reel in — and retain — today’s fickle consumers.

Display what sells

When it comes to merchandising your unique brand — you shouldn’t be afraid to brag a little. Jack Rednour-Bruckman, CEO, Bruckman Consulting Group, LLC says putting your best asset forward is a surefire attention-grabber — especially when you’re pushing a unique product that not everyone can offer.

“Feature your best-selling items prominently and have ancillary and accessory items nearby,” he suggests. In other words, put top-selling products where they’re surrounded by items that compliment them. When planning a party in your store, grouping together items of the same theme makes it quick and easy for shoppers to stock up on tableware, decorations, favor bags, and banners. It’s an easy way to increase the numbers of items purchased — and shoppers are more willing to spend when a space is aesthetically pleasing.

Set yourself apart

Due to financial restraints in an increasingly expensive world, many consumers have to be fairly picky with their purchases. For that reason, you should consider offering services that few others provide. But this doesn’t mean that you have to change every aspect of how you do business! “A differentiating factor could be something as simple as a unique return policy or a generous loyalty program that rewards spending,” says Larry Alton from RetailNext. “What’s the one thing your retail brand is doing that no one else is doing? You don’t have to be transforming the industry, but there should be at least one differentiating factor.”

Stay one step ahead

The novelty item and gift industry can be tough to cash in on — especially if the product you’re pushing is seasonal. The trick here is to always be thinking ahead to the next big thing … and checking out the competition is key. Not everyone can afford trend forecasting software and if you fall into this category, know that you’re not alone. Start bymaking note of what’s popular now and note what new concepts your competitors are beginning to implement so you can easily identify the trends that will be popular next year. Keeping your selection fresh and unique will ensure that you stand out in an increasingly oversaturated industry.

Stimulate their senses

People are visual beings by nature, which is why many think a picture on a website is enough of an incentive to inspire customers to put products in their virtual cart. Still, many find the allure of a brick-and-mortar store appealing, simply because they can use their other senses to come to an informed shopping decision. A survey by Ripen eCommerce found that the top reason people shop in stores is it allows them to touch, feel, and even sample their potential purchases. You wouldn’t buy a scented candle without smelling it first — and a child wouldn’t pick out a stuffed animal without touching it to see how it feels. Encouraging customers to make a sensory connection increases the likelihood of making a sale.

Send them to your website

Catch customers’ attention with an eye-grabbing display. In addition to having a store with curb-appeal, it’s important for consumers to keep you in mind long after they walk out the door. Providing plenty of bright, colorful signage referencing your website will help you gain traction in the virtual sphere. Once you develop an online presence, your products can begin to sell themselves from your browsable online catalog that customers can access 24/7. By 2021, e-commerce sales are expected to make up over 17% of purchases worldwide, so creating a good online experience for consumers is always a worthy endeavor.

The increasing demand for novelty and specialty retail items is adding even more competition into a market that is already on the upswing. With powerhouses like Spencer Gifts, Hallmark and Disney already dominating, the proof — as they say — is in the pudding. Many retailers have struck gold with their niche items, and with the market gaining traction many are looking to strike while the iron is hot. The good news? Success is possible — if you know where to start.

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