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February 11, 2010 7:54 PM   Subscribe

What are some great low budget, but effective ways of announcing the opening of a new local brick-mortar retail store?

Opening new store mid-summer (hopefully) in a part of downtown known for its retail shops, walking around space, and excellent pedestrian traffic. Products will appeal primarily to the foodie crowd (specialty culinary ingredients), but also to casual shopper looking for low-dollar gifts, etc... Midwestern city with metro area of about 600K that has fared relatively well in down economy; particular neighborhood also being a "destination" shopping area for both out-of-town visitors (particularly professionals in the city for business trips during the week) and also weekend shoppers from 100-150 mile radius. We're not against hiring some marketing/advertising people, but want to do something different than print ads in dead media forms. Ubiquitous blog and online presence is being developed, so more interested for the purposes of this question in doing all that we can to ensure a strong opening to the physical store and starting to develop a good customer base that we can then build on through ongoing marketing both online and locally.

What's going to get us the most bang for our proverbial buck when it comes to marketing and announcing the opening of a new, independent retail store to bring in the hordes.
posted by webhund to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Best answer: I opened a new store for a southern sporting goods chain a few years ago. They were able to drive traffic from day one with a media blitz. Notify the local newspaper about your new business. They are almost always interested in reporting about the opening, and what you offer the community, for their Sunday section. Our corporate offices also paid a local radio station to do an on-site broadcast and promo for the store on our grand opening day. The DJ set up right inside the store and broadcast for an hour. Both the radio station and our store had (cheap) giveaways for those who came by, and we also had grand opening pricing on a lot of our merchandise. Several hundred people checked us out that day in a community of only 30,000, and sales were quite good. It got us off to a good start with awareness. Congratulations on your new venture and best wishes.
posted by netbros at 8:15 PM on February 11, 2010

I would say that with something like this you should network with similar type stores, or rather complementary stores. Give out sweet coupons in places where you know you will have interested customers.
posted by lakerk at 8:17 PM on February 11, 2010

Go to a Chamber of Commerce breakfast! These Greeters want local businesses to succeed. You don't have to join to say hello; it can be a little corny but it's worth it.
posted by parmanparman at 8:54 PM on February 11, 2010

Thinking outside tools like Twitter a bit: does your city have Groupons or something similar? I'm speaking as a customer, not a business that's used it, but those sites can really effectively drive traffic to a new business.
posted by tantivy at 11:00 PM on February 11, 2010

Best answer: Based on your profile, sponsor and publicize a Miss Iowa appearance. (Based on my previous personal experience with Miss America state finalists, this kind of personal promotion costs less than you might think, and pulls more than you'd ever imagine).

Light up a warm, mid-Western mid-summer night with search lights.

If your promotional budget will stand it, give away a lot of money to some lucky customer.

Piggyback your opening promotions on vendor promotions. Apply for all vendor co-op advertising funds, order stock and display materials accordingly, and make sure you spend vendor funds, first. Plan initial stocking to maximize vendor co-op advertising in your first quarter.

Have a photographer on hand (even if it's just one of your employees with a digital camera), and take and circulate a ton of "Grand Opening" photos. Even if half of them are just townspeople, walking past your store. Even if it rains. Even if there are a lot fewer folks at your opening than you ever thought you'd made enemies of...

Look for opportunities for interviews in your local press (particularly radio and TV), and in regional and national news press (magazines, regional radio and TV outlets, national interview programs). Being available to the press, as a new business, in a down economy, on a slow news day, makes you newsworthy.
posted by paulsc at 1:55 AM on February 12, 2010

Maybe give away coupons or something at places catering to customers you want. Like "Bring your receipt from Joe's Coffee and get 20% off!"
posted by 6550 at 7:26 AM on February 12, 2010

How much anticipatory promotion are you doing? In a busy downtown shopping area with lots of foot traffic, it doesn't hurt to start piquing interest. When a new store was being set up in our downtown they papered the windows so you couldn't see in, but the glass was filled with "coming soon..." kinds of hints. It got people excited. Does your city do downtown events and festivals? It would be a great time to hand out coupons and give discounts, etc. Put a great sandwich board right outside your door, sometimes it's the simple things that make an impact.
posted by purpletangerine at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: Speaking as a customer, not a retailer (so feel free to disregard if these ideas don't make sense):

An independent coffee shop opened up in town once (long since closed, alas). For the first week or two they were open, they offered free plastic travel mugs (with their logo on it) with a coffee purchase. After the first purchase, refilling those mugs was discounted. Almost everybody I knew used those mugs and got their coffee at this new place.

Our town has a farmer's market in the summer. That's where I've learned about smaller food-related shops (and home-based businesses) that were in parts of town that I didn't get to very often.

I am one of those kinds of customers that will use coupons, so the ideas above about offering coupons (especially at related businesses) is right on, in my experience.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:05 AM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: Is there an or other food blog/news site in your area? If so, contact them -- they always want scoops on new places. (In San Francisco, I know some dining establishments and fooderies offer free food/meals to reviewers when they open -- you might want to consider inviting press.)

Also, if you have an alternative newsweekly nearby, they almost always want to feed their blogs/Web sites.
posted by vickyverky at 11:05 AM on February 12, 2010

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