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five fast fixes to Bring the Bloom back to your Business
  By Laurel Tielis

     The stock market cycles up and down, but both bulls and bears make money. Similarly, no matter how the economy is doing, there are always retailers who are building business and increasing income. Here are some cost-effective and efficient ways you can be one of them.

Become a destination
     If what you’re selling can be bought more easily online, and maybe even for less, you have to give buyers a reason to come to you. Creating a weekly, monthly or quarterly group that meets at your store is a terrific way to do that.

     Lululemon Athletica, an international chain selling workout wear, creates excitement and traffic by providing free weekly fitness classes, staffed by local teachers, in its stores. The costs are minimal; the upside is enormous.

     You can do the same. Help your customers understand the value of flowers in their lives, show them how a small outlay can make a big difference in their homes, talk about using flowers to increase the beauty of a wedding. A class teaching kids how to create a bouquet is a surefire way to get parents in the shop and begin a lifelong relationship with the younger generation.

Sweeten your sales
     When the economy was at its weakest, penny candy sales were still strong. That’s because when life goes sour, people seek sweetness. So if your customer had a rough day, improve it by keeping munchies on hand. Increase your business and connect to your community by giving it a green theme. You can put out fruits (dried or fresh), nuts, and cut up vegetables. You can ask your suppliers to help with the cost, or partner with a local supermarket or vegetable stand. They provide the product; you give them a floral display.

     Also, when people come to your home, you ask, “What can I get you to drink?” Do the same in your business. Become closer to your customers by showing you value them. Serve coffee, tea, apple cider or hot chocolate. Think about partnering with a local coffee shop for this.

Get karma credit
     You’ve heard the expression, “What goes around, comes around.” It’s true. When you take care of other people, you get taken care of. It even works in business.

     Get karma credit, and turn that into sales, by connecting with local nonprofits. Beauty makes a big difference in peoples’ lives, so take advantage of that. Work with a group that supports a local hospital, homeless shelter or rehabilitation center. Help people heal by bringing sensory pleasures into their lives at a time when they are being challenged physically and emotionally.

     When you do this, you also create connections with the members of the charity. Stage an event, and you get your mailing list plus theirs. Not only that, as a former retail reporter, I can assure you that the chances of getting media coverage in local outlets increases exponentially.

Change your hours
     Lululemon works this idea as well. One outlet in my area offers classes on Sunday mornings, before the store’s opening hours. Another has them after the store closes. Then they serve wine or kombucha tea, so people hang around, shop and get to meet one another. In essence, they’ve created a club with a constantly growing membership.

     If you normally open at 8 a.m., try opening once a month at 6 or 7 a.m. Lots of people work an early shift, and by the time they get home, they’re wiped out. Catch them before they go to work or school. Open your doors, perk some coffee and pull in some buyers.

     Conversely, if you normally close at 6 p.m., keep your doors open once a month until 9 or 10 p.m. That gives people the chance to go home, have dinner, relax and then go out to shop. Make it a party. Bring in a DJ, or play recorded music. Serve wine, beer and soft drinks. Consider giving it a theme, like “Love in Bloom.”

Go outside the “box”
     No matter how large your shop’s square footage, there’s a lot more world outside. Creating a floral display at a popular local restaurant is a great way to help the restaurant keep patrons entertained while waiting to be seated, and it’s an even better way for you to introduce yourself to a new population. Doing the same at an assisted living center introduces you to an affluent population that may not be able to get out and about on their own. Providing a “show and tell” at a local school is another ingenuous way to start building a new audience. These events all provide good photos and should appeal to the press. And publicity, as you know, is free advertising.

     Now get the word out about what you’re doing. Move your message by combining traditional media with social media because using one without the other is like doing a one-armed push up—very, very hard! Buy cost-effective local ads, pursue publicity, and tweet on Twitter, or work Facebook.

     Make your blog the first page of your website, to keep the information fresh. Use your e-mail list to provide people with information that’s useful to them, and ask them to pass it along. If several people sign up for your e-mail or newsletter because of your e-mail lists, offer a discount or gift on their next purchase. As for your newsletter, fill it with photos. Show your customers enjoying the in-store talks, your displays, and the people you’ve reached out to through your charity work and your after-hours gathering. It will turn readers into buyers.

Copyright 2010 Laurel Tielis


     Laurel Tielis is the author of Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales. A new book for independent retailers, it offers innovative, inexpensive and easy-to implement strategies to help retailers connect with customers and boost business. The book is brief, for busy store owners, but it’s packed with anecdotes and suggestions from both small and high-end businesses. A former reporter for Fairchild Publications, the Miami Herald, and People magazine, Laurel is currently an internationally known speaker, presenting seminars for small business owners at conventions, conferences, meetings and trade shows. Contact her at ringupmoresales@gmail.com. Buy the book at www.amazon.com.



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