Getting the Word Out: Advice from MouseShoppe
MouseShoppe is an Internet-based store that carries low-end licensed Disney mechandise, while its physical counterpart, CharmingShoppe, is a brick and mortar store that sells high-end Disney collectibles. Strategically located near Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix may have an edge on her competitors, but even this experienced retailer must advertise to draw sales.
"We actually advertise to existing MouseShoppe customers by putting ´box stuffers´ in shipments - sell sheets, catalogs, postcards - whatever we have on hand," Vincent-Phoenix says. "Several of our vendors provide free or very low-cost printed promotional materials for our use, and we take gleeful advantage of those offers wherever possible. We also participate in co-op advertising where offered, which allows us access to professionally-produced advertising materials at a much lower cost."
She is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and works to increase sales by networking with other local businesses. "We like being friendly with other stores, because we can help each other locate needed product or get rid of excess inventory," she explains. "I think that we´ve been able to avoid bringing in some under-performing product lines because of feedback we´ve received from other stores, and we´ve also been able to recognize where a competitor might be missing an opportunity that we can take advantage of. At a retailer dinner last year we learned that several of our competitors were ending their layaway program, so we made sure that we talked up our program in our next few e-mails to customers."
CharmingShoppe hosts open house events. In July they sent an invitation to 300 local members of a national collector club to attend a picnic at the store. Over 80 people responded.
"While this cost quite a bit for food, we probably could have had the same event without a meal and had a decent turnout," she remarks. "We´ve hosted similar events for other product lines without catering."
She uses a hook, something that customers can´t get at regular retailers. Too small to afford exclusive product, she tries to get prototypes and samples of coming products to show customers before they can see it at another store. This works best with collectors who are clamoring for the latest releases.
"Our sales reps have been great in helping us get these samples, and it allows us to take pre-orders well before other stores can even get the word out," she says.
Vincent-Phoenix participates in discussion boards on the Internet to provide information and answer questions about merchandise. She makes a lot of buying decisions based on feedback from the boards.
"In fact, we have decided not to carry some collectible lines because there isn´t a discussion board for that product," she states. "If something has been on the market for five years, and there isn´t already an online collector community, then we don´t consider the product to have a very strong following.”
She even writes a column about new product for a Disney-oriented website, a subtle way of attracting potential customers.
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