The right image
It's important that your outlet projects the right image to customers. Everything about the way your outlet looks and feels should be designed to encourage customers to keep coming back regularly.
It's generally important to make the outside of your outlet as attractive and welcoming as possible. Try to make sure that signs are professionally made, clean and in good condition. Use colours, lettering and design that you feel put across the right image. Bear in mind that things like the condition of the paintwork can make a difference between a shop that looks like it's up and coming and one that looks old and run-down. Keep your windows spotlessly clean and well lit.
Whatever you plan to sell, make sure that your window displays are attractively laid out and changed regularly. Think about what would make you stop and look if you were a passer-by. If you offer other services then it's probably a good idea to advertise these in your window or on a sign outside your outlet.
Depending on the items you stock, think about the different ways of displaying them - such as shelves, hangers, racks, rails, stands, dump bins, carousels and so on. Try to make sure that goods are arranged neatly to help customers find what they're looking for. Look into ways of encouraging customers to buy as much as possible. For example, you could put a rack of attractive but inexpensive goods on the counter top next to the till. Talk to your suppliers about the availability of attractive point-of-sale materials such as stands, leaflets and signs.
You and any staff you employ play a key role in the image of your business. Customers will expect staff to be friendly, helpful and enthusiastic. Ideally, they'll also be knowledgeable about the products you stock and be able to give customers advice when required.
Advertising your business
Without customers your business won't be able to survive, so you need to make sure that as many potential customers as possible know that your retail business exists and are aware of the products and any services you offer.
There are a number of things you can do to promote your business, for example:
- launch your own website to advertise your business and the product ranges you stock. You may also decide to sell online
- run a regular email newsletter for customers who agree to receive it, telling them about the latest new products and special offers
- develop an effective social media strategy and use Facebook and Twitter to keep customers up to date with your business
- have leaflets printed outlining some of the unique features of your outlet and distribute them to your target market
- leave publicity material and contact details with a related outlet - for example a bridal wear outlet may be prepared to display a florist's promotional material
- advertise in an online directory - maybe a trade association for your sector provides members with a listing on its website
- sponsor local events and organisations such as a local sports team
- advertise in your local newspaper
- take out an advert on Yell.com and other online directories
- offer special discounts and free goods from time to time - for example buy one, get one free on certain products. Advertise special offers prominently in your window
- make sure that your logo is on any packaging and carrier bags you use
Almost all types of advertising and promotion have a cost, whether it's financial or your own time and effort - or both. You need to make sure that the beneficial effects of your advertising efforts are worth the time and money spent on them. It's up to you to decide which types of advertising work best for you - sometimes this is down to trial and error.