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Step Outside the Same Old Sales Box

Spark your “cool” cred with pet-loving customers by applying unusual and innovative sales techniques in your store.


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If you own or manage a retail store, try unconventional tactics that will surprise your customers in order to make them think of your business as cool and innovative. Your goal is to create an image for your business that stays in people’s minds in a much more effective way than would a boatload of ads about price and merchandise.

Start with an idea for a return policy that sounds unusual and will increase business. The idea is to offer a really long time for customers to return items. The concept comes from a recent study by researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas, which showed that the longer the amount of time customers have to return a purchase, the less likely they are to return it. The extended time period seems to remove the urgency from making the return and gives the customer time to get used to owning the item. The study looked at several different approaches to returns and found that the opportunity to receive a full, instead of a partial, refund coupled with a long return window is the only set of policies that increases sales while reducing returns.

 

Start with Summer

Customers remain motivated to buy if they think they are getting a good deal that they might miss out on. They are bombarded by “sale” messages, so you must come up with new ones that cause them to take notice.

One store holds a Summer Solstice Sale in June. This one-day sale offers 50 percent off between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., 40 percent off between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., 30 percent off between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., and 20 percent off for the rest of the day. If you carry dog and cat food, you could set different discounts for those categories, such as 20 percent off for the entire day or cut the above discount levels in half. Put everything on sale, but feature summer merchandise, such as pool toys and travel items. Prepare for lines at your door before opening by having coffee ready outside.

A Holiday Preview Sale starts three weeks before Thanksgiving, landing you a share of customers’ holiday spending before Black Friday. Offer 20 percent off the first week and 15 percent off the second week. If you carry holiday items, this sale will give you an idea of what sells and what doesn’t, what you can reorder and what you should mark down. You can use the discount structure of the Summer Solstice Sale and the Holiday Preview Sale for other events.

The 12 Days of Christmas Sale at B&B Pet Stop in Mobile, Ala., offers one item at a very deep discount on each of the 12 days. The objective is to get as many people to come in as close to 12 times as possible. It is essential to not reveal the sale item in advance; instead, send emails out that day, or the day before, so people keep checking. Include a photo of the product in each email.

An effective ongoing program is to offer a free gift with purchase. Examples are a store shirt with every $100 purchased, or a smaller pet gift with every $25 or $50. For a gift with some value, choose certain days periodically to give them away totally free—with no purchase requirement—to the first five customers who come in.

 

Weird Can Be Wonderful

If these aren’t unusual enough, the Two Bostons chain in Naperville, Ill., holds an April Stool’s Day event on a weekend day before that fun date. The centerpiece is contests divided into two age groups. Participants try to see how much poop they can pick up with shovels and buckets in 45 seconds, with the top three finishers winning gift certificates. The store uses rubbery replicas—not real poop.

Co-sponsors for Two Bostons’ events are a local pet waste collection service and a local bakery that provided pastries in the shape of, well, you know. Include an incentive to buy, like a discount or a percent of each sale given to a charity of each customer’s choice.

Keep It Fresh

If you hold many sales and events, avoid being too predictable, otherwise customers will hold off purchasing until you hold a sale. A great resource for interesting sale themes is holidayinsights
.com, which contains a long list of unique and bizarre “holidays.” Using these allows you to move your events around the calendar.

Some directly relate to pet supplies, such as National Adopt-a-Cat month (June). During National Hamburger Month (May), either for the whole month or only on the slowest day of the week, offer a discount to anyone who brings in a receipt from a hamburger joint. On National Chocolate Ice Cream Day (June 7), bring in a freezer, and offer free ice cream to anyone who spends $5 or more. There are hundreds of crazy-themed days and months listed on the site, not all of them relating to food.

 

Barry Berman is president and co-founder of NexPet co-op for independent retailers and Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals pet food company. Contact him at barry@nexpet.com.

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