Entertain your customers to keep them coming back

If a customer loves fabric from your shop, hopefully they will come back for more. However with competition from local retailers and online shops what can you do to make sure they keep coming back to you?

Karen Hanson, owner of Quilt Expressions in Idaho shares three top tips…

Being in the retail business today is evolving into being in the entertainment business. So, as the owner of a shop, I have the job of heading up the entertainment committee.

Strike up a Conversation

For your customers, the shop should be like a bar where everybody knows their name. Ideally, you should have your counter or cutting table positioned so that you can see your shop entrance and greet customers as they walk in. Offer your customers more than just a simple “hello” greet them like long last friends, “There you are” “We’ve missed you” “How have you been”.

Rather than simply offering help to a customer, which can come across as a standard retail line and is often automatically met with “No, I’m fine thanks” encourage your staff to engage the customer in small talk. For example, you could compliment what the customer is wearing, mention the weather or ask if they are working on any projects currently. Gauge the customer’s response, paying attention to their tone and body language, and take it from there. Engaging the customer shows that you are there to help and puts them in a positive frame of mind.

If an unfamiliar customer comes in find out if it is their first time in the shop and if so explain where things are or even give them a quick tour to help them feel at home. This could also be a good opportunity to let them know about your website, social media and encourage them to sign up to your email communications.
Cultivate an Engaging Ambience

Think about the reasons why as a customer you would go back to a craft shop – or not, and where your shop fits in.

Do you have inspirational displays? Keep your main displays fresh, whether they are showing new lines, projects or perhaps a theme.
Do you offer friendship and camaraderie? The six foot rule is a good tip, when you are within six foot of a customer, acknowledge them and say something.
Do you provide help and encouragement? This shouldn’t just be transaction driven, if you can help with advice or tips about a project or technique for instance, even a customer who doesn’t buy at the time is more likely to come back.
Are you entertaining your customers? You don’t always have to talk about fabric. Have you seen a good movie? Read a good book or article, heard a good joke lately.
Free seminar style classes

Besides a warm welcome and an engaging ambience, some experts advise that a store should host two events every month to keep customers walking through the door. Classes can provide some additional footfall and extra business but can be at the wrong time and wrong price for some customers and may require more space than you have available.

Consider offering seminar style classes. These are short sessions of about 45 minutes which customers can sign up to for free. No machines or actual sewing are involved. Instead, they are a seminar-style class that can accommodate large numbers of customers at little cost whilst generating great footfall. One idea for this is an “Everything Series” each session has the theme “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About… (fill in the blank) e.g. crochet, with a different topic in each session.

Here’s a few guidelines on making these seminars work…

Outline – Have a clear plan outlined for the seminar including any visual aids you will require.
Handouts – this could be a simple recap of the presentation or a free pattern related to the topic.
Promotion – spread the word with shop signage, bag stuffers, social media, newsletters etc.
Presentation – The most effective way to the present the seminar is with two people as this creates more entertainment with banter back and forth between presenters. Make sure you do your research, have an outline and practice, practice, practice…Discount – offer discounts to customers who attend to be used that day on regular merchandise only (not discounted).

Karen's featured tips are based on her article for the subscription magazine Fab Shop News 
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