It is not enough just to stock your store with apparel and accessories for the new season, you need strategies to move those products. Spring is a time for new beginnings, and there’s no better time to reinvent your store and optimize for sales. Here is a step-by-step guide for increasing apparel sales in your store.
Get the Word Out
The first step in moving your spring and summer inventory is getting new and returning customers in the door. There are a variety of factors that go into effective retail advertising.
• If You Build It, They Will Come
Unfortunately, this concept does not work in retail. Just because you have opened a store, does not mean customers will start walking in. You need to promote your business and meet your customers where they are. Many of the local boutiques that I have interviewed say that Instagram is one of their biggest sources of new customers. Instagram and Facebook are the easiest and potentially most effective ways of promoting your business to the local community. But, don’t throw traditional methods out the window. Take out an ad in the local newspaper. Sponsor a youth sports team. Get involved with your community so people can put a face to your store.
• Manage Your Online Presence
The importance of managing online reviews can’t be overstated. Customers will leave reviews whether or not you created your own Yelp page. It’s unavoidable. Take charge of the situation by claiming your Yelp page (if it already exists) or starting a new one if you don’t already have reviews. The same goes for your Google information. Google will display your company info and allow customers to leave reviews whether you’ve set it up or not. So, create an account and make sure all of the information is correct. Now, take a little bit of time every week to respond to reviews — positive and negative. You can pinpoint areas to work on from customer feedback and show shoppers their opinion is valued. It’s a win-win.
• Create an Occasion
Give shoppers a reason to buy from your store at a specific date and time. Host the event on a weekend day or a weekday evening for maximum attendance. It can be a flash sale, a sip and shop, or a spring product reveal. The specifics are flexible. Create a really big deal out of the new spring and summer products you are so excited about, and your customers will get excited too. Send out an email invite, create a countdown for your product reveal on social media. In other words — go all out. Creating your own retail holiday is a strategy you can employ year round to boost sales.
• Build Multiple Paths to Purchase
After the event, reveal your new products online. Post event pictures and strike envy into those who were not able to attend. Then, give digital onlookers the opportunity to purchase the items. Offer a buy-online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) option so customers can reserve their favorite items and have them ready for them when they come in. Knowing exactly what is in-stock and available ahead of time is a big motivator for time-crunched shoppers. Plus, this type of social commerce is a great way to build engagement online.
Create an Inviting Storefront
Once you’ve convinced shoppers to leave their homes and make a trip to your store, it’s time to wow them with your storefront. Just like a quick Google search can create a strong positive or negative first impression, your storefront says a lot about your business. Here’s how to put your best foot forward:
• Location, Location, Location
Ideally, your store is in a central downtown area, or in a space that gets lots of foot traffic. Make the most of having a prominent location and take small steps to call attention to your store. If hundreds, or even dozens of people are walking by every day, do all of them know you are there? The easiest and one of the most effective things to do is put an A-frame sign out front. At minimum, have your store name and logo. But, cheeky sayings and quotes often get the most attention — sometimes even a picture. You can also advertise sales and events. If your store is in a dog-friendly neighborhood, place a water bowl outside your front door. Dog owners appreciate the small gesture, plus they will have no choice but to notice your store while Fido is drinking.
• Window Displays Can Win Over Customers
Your window displays are people’s first impression of your store. What are your windows saying? Create a winning window display first and foremost by having a strategy. Create a vision of what you want to say with your windows and how you will execute including theme, colors, and product elements. Utilize the height and depth of your window display to create maximum visual interest, and use quality lighting to show off the final result. Now, rinse and repeat often so that your windows always reflect current inventory, style, and season.
• Sweat the Small Stuff
Routine maintenance and cleaning can be a drag. But when it comes to the entrance of your store, there’s no room for slacking. Glass windows need to be free of handprints and smudges, entryways swept and dusted, paint fresh, and any carpeting stain-free. If any part of your store’s appearance looks sad or neglected, shoppers will assume that your products, or worse, your customers are also sad and neglected. Putting in the tiny daily efforts to keep up appearances makes a world of difference.
Rethink the In-Store Experience
Now that shoppers are actually inside your store, you can move more products and build bigger margins by creating a first-class in-store experience. Creating the optimal in-store experience can seem straightforward, but in reality is hard to execute consistently. Here are some tips for selling more apparel by providing a great experience:
• Merchandise Strategically
Step one — make sure your products are displayed effectively. There are many resources available that go into great detail on how to make your stores look better and sell more such as ebooks, courses, and consultants. We recommend Kizer & Bender’s ebook Visual Merchandising & Store Design: How to Set Your Sales Floor to Sell! They also cover Merchandising 101, including basic terms and concepts to know.
• Don’t Discount Mannequins
Sales are the biggest driver of in-store spending. But, did you know that mannequins are the second largest driver of in-store apparel sales? First of all, make sure you have them in your store. Next, make sure you’re using them well. Change their outfits often, and make sure they are complete. Add on accessories, handbags, and jewelry for a complete look and higher sales.
Barbara Chancey, consultant with Indoor Cycle Design recommends having “upscale mannequins with complete outfits and plenty of accessories. Many people buy off the mannequin and need to visualize assembled outfits rather than individual pieces.” Barbara also recommends changing up your mannequin display at least every 7-14 days. Just like your window display, update your mannequins regularly to reflect in-stock and timely products.
• Color Coordinate
Barbara also recommends merchandising by color. “Grouping items by color produces more sales because customers don’t waste time sifting through colors which do not flatter their skin tones.” Arranging by color can be very visually pleasing and inviting for shoppers who are drawn to one color over the other. Of course, shoppers should always be able to find what they are looking for easily, whether it’s a certain color, a pair of pants, or style of shirt. Organize by color, just not at the expense of utility.
• Make it Comfortable
Slower shopping translates to higher spend. Customers who spend more time in your store will end up spending more money. So, encourage shoppers to stay awhile by creating a comfortable and interactive store environment. Have cozy places to sit, especially near the fitting rooms. Bonus points if you have phone-charging stations and free WiFi. Offer a simple infused water during the summer and hot tea during cold winter months. Most importantly, have lots of product demos and samples. When it comes to apparel and accessories, this means lots of mirrors throughout the store and accessible accessories that shoppers can try on for themselves. If you sell sunglasses, have a fitting guide that outlines flattering frames for different face shapes. Have another guide that recommends apparel or jewelry colors based on skin tone. Above all else, engage your customers, have them interact with your products, and make them feel comfortable in your store environment.
• Training is Key
Practice makes perfect. To increase apparel sales, work with your staff daily to instill good habits and effective sales strategies. The first step in having a top-notch sales team is hiring the right people. Anyone can be trained in sales strategies, but you can’t teach a positive attitude. Skills can be learned, but qualities cannot. Figure out what values are most important to you, and hire people that fit that criteria. Once you have the right people, train your staff to sell more through leading by example, having daily goals, and regular coachings.
• Use the Glass Jar Method
Joe Johnson, owner of Startup Smarter, recommends using the glass jar method to increase sales. Instead of running a traditional percentage discount or BOGO promotion, the glass jar method turns discounting into a game and invites shoppers to return. “Once a customer walks into the store, they would enter a free contest drawing by pulling out a piece of paper from the glass jar. On that piece of paper would be a limited time coupon for them to use at a later date. The key to this working effectively was the deal on the coupon would expire soon, thus driving your customers to take action.”
In order to make this contest idea most effective, write down a bunch of different coupons that are truly incentivizing and offer customers a drawing only at checkout. Offering bigger discounts to already paying customers is better than smaller discounts to anyone who walks in. This surprise will delight customers and encourage them to come back soon, and hopefully also tell their friends.
• Give Them a Little Extra
Think of your business not just as selling products but as providing a service. Small and independent businesses stand out from chains and big businesses largely through the memorable experience and customer service that they provide. Think about what small extras you can provide your customers to take your service to the next level. Gift wrapping, registry services, personalized monograms or embroidery, or even in-house tailoring. In today’s retail world, many stores carry similar products. The experience shoppers have buying from your store is what turns them into loyal customers.
• Don’t Shy Away From the Upsell
If you continue to think of your business as a service, then add-on sales become a lot easier. Of course, stock your point-of-sale with fun, eye-catching, and useful impulse buys at value price points. But, true upsells are more than that. It all comes down to getting to know your customer, and making recommendations based on their needs and educating them on different product qualities. For example, if you know a customer is shopping for a gift, recommend a necklace that pairs with the shirt they have picked out. If they are looking for summer clothing, discuss the benefits of linen or 100 percent cotton fabrics over polyester blends.
Keep Them Coming Back for More
Once a shopper makes a purchase from you, that’s just the beginning. The goal now is to turn them into lifelong customers. Keep your customers engaged post-purchase with a few simple strategies.
• Communication is Key
I learned from Retail Maven Cathy Donovan Wagner that 80 percent of your revenue comes from 20 percent of your customers. That 20 percent are not just regular customers, they are raving fans. As such, they want to hear from you and are eager to see what’s new. Many retailers are afraid of sending too many promotions and losing subscribers. But, the truth is that the small percent of customers that make up the majority of your sales want to hear from you more. So don’t worry about a few unsubscribes — that doesn’t translate to lost sales.
• Incentivize With a Loyalty Program
An easy-to-use digital loyalty program is an easy and effective way to keep your store at the top of your customers minds. Physical punch cards are simple, but often get lost or forgotten in the back of shoppers wallets. There are many affordable loyalty software solutions for small businesses like Yotpo, Loyalty Lion, Loopy Loyalty, and more, that make it easy for customers to receive and track rewards. Plus, you can send SMS text or email reminders for shoppers to use rewards or personalized offers.
• Collaborate with Customers
One surefire way to keep customers coming back for more is by involving them in the product development process. Getting customers opinions on future products and styles is a great way to get feedback from customers, make them feel like they are heard and respected, and feel confident that the products you buy for your store will sell. Millennials in particular will appreciate this gesture. 40 percent of Millennials want to participate in the co-creation of products. Sending out a simple survey is an easy way to collaborate with your customers.
At the end of the day, increasing sales is best achieved by evaluating and optimizing the digital, physical, and personal aspects of your business. Spring into action by setting a schedule for creating and executing your marketing, merchandising, and training efforts. Then, stick to it! Follow these strategies and watch your sales soar this Spring and beyond.