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How to Attract Customers and Increase Foot Traffic To Your Store

visual merchandising monument signHow do I get more customers?  That is a frequent question to my retail consultancy.

When you are trying to attract customers and get more foot traffic the focus is squarely on your appearance.  Like any Hollywood stylist you want to make the most of what you already have to look your best.

11 Ways To Attract Customers and Get More Foot Traffic For Your Shop

Create A Memorable Monument Sign!

It is so easy to do what everyone else does with black block letters on a beige concrete sign. While many developments have strict sign policies which reduce most businesses to a commodity by the road (Think Jane’s Fun Toys For Girls and Boys reduced to TOYS,) if you present a compelling sign, you can get away with it like Skribbles in CT.  Who wouldn’t think it would be fun to send their child there?

Make A Display For that Window!

If you are in a popular destination with great foot traffic, create a great window that tells one story and tells it well. Your window display must be your invitation to the passerby. A well-designed window display encourages impulse sales and peaks a customer’s curiosity. It might even tug at their heartstrings.

A June display at a jewelry store featured a miniature park scene. Seated on one end of an oak bench, a young woman held out her left hand as her fiancé on bended knee, placed a sparkling platinum diamond ring on her finger. At the other end of the bench, an elderly woman, alone, admired her own wedding band. A simple sign overhead said, “A diamond is forever.”

Checkout these pictures of a toy retailer with incredible visual merchandising skills.

Roll Out A Red Welcome Mat!

The best hoteliers and event producers know there is nothing that screams “Special Treatment.”  The 20th Century Limited pasenger train used a plush red carpet to direct people as they boarded.  A simple mat with “Welcome” on the front in a high traffic area draws attention to your store.  When I was in New Zealand I saw a florist who used red rose petals (probably from old roses) scattered across the sidewalk like a carpet to draw passersby attention to her beautiful windows and into her store.

Beth Hnatio-Pumphrey with EJP Studios in Frederick, MD suggests writing on the sidewalk with chalk. She advises to draw “Arrows, cute sayings, types of items or lines you carry. It is different. People notice and it leads them to your door.”

Put Your Best Out Front!

If you have large enough products, wheel your best product in front of your store every day. If you’re a motorcycle dealer, I know, they’re heavy – got it.  So what? Nothing grabs speeding customers’ eyes faster than a display of a shiny new vehicle. And not the one that’s cheap, but the one every guy driving on his way home stares at like a pretty woman. It says you are the source for excitement.  If you’re an apparel store, this is not for you but a garden center with a killer display – you bet.

Put Something In Your Parking Lot!

Light pole signs – You’ve seen these at gas stations and fast food restaurants. These should be printed in full color. Maybe a red loveseat with, “Valentine’s Is Coming” and your logo at the bottom would be great for January. Speak with your landlord to see if there is an objection.  The goal on these types of signs is not to “sell” anything (Big Sales 20% off!) but to showcase your best product.  Think something short like, “Learn To Sew,” or “The Perfect Birthday,” or “You Can Cook.”

Fly Some Flags!

A string of pennant flags from a light pole to the front of your business.  You can get a multi-color version at sporting goods stores for under $50.  The trick with flags is to replace them about every other month while they are still bright and before they are all ripped.

Decorate Your Outside Walls!

attracting customers

Notice how Skribbles carries fun theme to their building too

If you can make your building immediately recognizable for what you sell, have at it. If you can’t you can still put a tall banner from roof to sidewalk in eye-catching colors ( think forest green instead of a garish fluorescent pink).  At the top put, “We’ve got” and add pictures of your best products. Again, the goal is not to scream price, but showcase the wants.  See if your vendors would co-op to save money. City sign ordinances may seem to not allow but check – usually they will let you have it up for 90 days.

Can’t put it on the building, you can get freestanding banner holders to place by your doors. Placed outside, these are used where you cannot use a building banner but with the same message. Costs with weighted banner holder can be a couple hundred dollars and can be changed monthly to refresh your image.

Checkout a case study of how we made a retailers entire store an advertisement.

Outfit Your Parkway!

These are lightweight signs are often used by realtors for open houses because of their reasonable cost (less than $30 each.) They are pushed into the ground and stand three feet high by two feet wide.  For a limited time promotion, these might be a good choice to get your message out into your parking lot or by the sidewalk of a busy intersection. Some are sturdier than others but they do not take much wind.  Even if your city has sign police, these can generally be used on weekends when they’re off duty.

Move Out A Portable Sign!

My Little Red Wagon in Hudson, OH uses their portable sign to challenge their customers like this one, “Finish our 9 piece puzzle in less than 5 minutes and get a free puzzle!” Others use them for a short bulleted list of benefits, a snappy saying, or drawing attention to a hard to find item.

Using a professional curb sign like the MDI Windmaster gives your store’s message a professional look. For under $300, you can use this important tool for high quality color graphics to standout from your competitors who write a generic “Sale” on an old slapped together “A” frame sign. Weatherproof with a base you can fill with sand, water or anti-freeze, the Windmaster will last for years. Again, check with local authorities on signage regs. I’ve seen some clients only use them on weekends when the sign inspector is off but when foot traffic is highest.

Plant it Up!

One of the most successful restaurants in California spends very nothing on ads but a bundle on the landscaping around their restaurants.  There is not a patch of earth that is not blooming throughout much of the year.  Why do they do this? Because they know their abundance of flowers will attract customers’ eyes, so everyone knows where their location is in town.

If you have nothing but sidewalks in front of you, plant up some large pots with something like bright red geraniums and keep them watered, fed and well maintained.  In the winter plant junipers and string lights on them.

I can hear some of you thinking, “Guys won’t appreciate that.” Remember guys are often the ones maintaining their own yards.

Catch the Wind!

There’s nothing cheaper that provides movement and attention to your business than balloons.  If you have a railing, use that. If you have nowhere to tie them to, you can use cinder-blocks laid flat to tie the strings through the holes.  If you don’t like the way cinder-blocks look, disguise them with cloth, burlap or oil cloth. Be sure to use plenty and replace often as helium deflates in the sun.

One more tip to standout from your competition, make sure every year you have your parking lot patched and sealed– you have to look new and successful, not old and struggling.

When you  make yourself look bigger and feature our wants, you’ll pique our interest in what you have waiting inside.

Here are 10 ways to merchandise the inside of your store. 

Two Ways To Keep Customers Away

Sign Boys

Nothing looks more desperate than a person with a red arrow at the sidewalk pointing to the business.  You may get attention but it is customers thinking “poor guy.” (If your store is that hidden, you should have thought of that before you opened.  You don’t want to be 100 feet from success.) 

The persons chosen for arrow duty are typically the saddest looking people, bored, a pair of headphones in their ears and their eyes vacantly looking into traffic; oftentimes with a cheap beach chair by their side.  Worse is using your own kids.  Is this the image you want for your business? No.

Junk Store

Sticking your old sale merchandise out onto the sidewalk looks like a garage sale.  Those driving past will judge you by what you have chosen to represent your business out front which are things no one wanted so you put them on sale.

These aren’t all the ways to attract customers to your store and get more foot traffic but they can give you an easy lift without a lot of cash outlay.





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Posted by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor on May 24, 2012.

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