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April 2004 | Vol. III - No. 4


Tips for Summer Retailing

Summer has two major advantages: the weather is great and kids are out of school. In fact, the majority of retailers experience a slight to moderate increase in business during the summer months. There are many ways to take advantage of this time of the year, from bringing in new clients to successfully marketing summer products.

It’s the Weather, Stupid!

Bob Phibbs, also known as the “the Retail Doctor,” advises expanding beyond the confines of your store if you have the space available. This means more than simply placing a display outside. He emphasizes the importance of showing off what your merchandise can do: “nothing attracts like demonstrating.” Possibilities include staging a mock squirt-gun battle if it’s water guns you want to promote, or perhaps hiring some college kids to toss a Frisbee around the parking lot. Even stores without the advantage of extra space can use this technique, sometimes simply by having children play with the toys themselves. If it’s not demonstrated, he cautions, it typically won’t sell.

Phibbs also advises “painting a picture” with your product—whether outside or inside. This might mean using your display window in an inventive way. For example, you can create a beach scene or hang dozens of your hot sellers from the ceiling. Spend some time being creative, he advises, and if you are not creative yourself, utilize the resources in your community. Local colleges, for example, may have graphic design students who can help out; if sports is not your thing, maybe the college team can offer some ideas.

Out of the Box

Most importantly, Phibbs stresses, “You’re supposed to be the fun store, not a museum!” This is where the notion of demonstration really comes in. “For gosh sakes,” he says, “if we see a cool gadget, we’re gonna try it.” And, the first step to seeing it is to take it out of the box. Have a few (or more) of the items you want to push displayed about the store. Consumers really want to see what they are getting—especially if it is expensive.

Thinking creatively about which products to push is as important as creatively thinking about how to push them. Phibbs suggests shopping your competition, especially local big-box stores [e.g., Toys R Us, Target and Wal-Mart]. You probably won’t want to be highlighting the same merchandise as the discount store next door. Another technique you can use is to allow the consumer to see how the product might work in their own home or backyard. Beyond simple demonstration, this means simulating a “backyard feel.” If you’re in a strip mall, your retail neighbors might be induced to participate in a cross-promotion. Perhaps the barbeque store next door can help stage an outdoor scene with burgers, trikes, and outdoor games. Or the bookstore can highlight the origin for your branded product.

Summer is a great time of year to let loose a little. Or, as the Retail Doctor prescribes, “Have fun, paint a picture, and demonstrate.”


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