Retail & Sales Promotion

Retail marketing plans, sales promotion ideas, branding and advertising resources for retailers. Learn how to use loss leaders, media buys and sales events to the benefit of your retail stores. Select the right newspaper to advertise in, create an effective ad and understand newspaper rate cards.

Although the primary purpose of this section is to discuss merchandise management, advertising is so important to the concept that its inclusion, though brief, is necessary.

There are two major types of advertising:


1. Advertising to acquaint potential buyers with the special features of a product

With many industries, advertising of this type is done by the manufacturer of the product. Quite often, however, the retailer must do some of this advertising. When this occurs, it is often necessary to work with an advertising agency so they may help you write the copy (wording) such that the advertising will bring the best results. Such advertising concentrates almost solely on the single featured product.


2. Advertising the availability and price of nationally known merchandise

Much retail advertising is merely directed at letting potential customers know that the product is available and informing the customer of special prices or promotions which may encourage her/him to buy, at your store. This is perhaps best done through ‘Omnibus’ ads which feature many products, their prices, and brief slogans about their benefits. Consumers very often “shop” such ads and will come into your store to buy one or two of the items listed. While there, they buy other things on impulse.

Whatever your message may be, there are many ways to advertise – depending on how much information you wish to impart to prospective consumers, what kind of information (audio and/or visual), and how many consumers you wish to reach.

Retailers who cater to local clientele may use advertising methods such as:

  • In-house flyers indicating products and bargains
  • Signs both internal and external to the store
  • Informative in-house displays of merchandise
  • Direct mail advertising
  • Local newspapers
  • Distribution of flyers by hand or using the local newspaper deliveries (some papers have such arrangements)

Those retailers who wish to launch a large scale campaign may, of course, resort to advertising via radio, television, or widely circulated newspapers.

It is very important to remember that for any kind of advertising, single ads bring very sparse results. In order to make an advertising campaign successful, it is usually necessary to advertise repeatedly (five or six times during a one to two week period) to acquaint consumers with your service or product and, most important, with your store. It is also necessary to maintain a regular program of advertising throughout the year in order to continue bringing customers into the store.

Continual experimentation is necessary to determine which approaches are best. Although proper advertising may involve an initially high expense, if it succeeds both in drawing more clientele into your store and in increasing sales in both advertised and unadvertised products, the initial investment may more than pay for itself.

Once advertising has brought the consumer into your store, promotion and sales efforts must transfer the customer’s attention and interest into desire and action to buy.


In-store promotion

Promoting merchandise may often be achieved by special arrangements with a manufacturer or a wholesaler. Often new merchandise will be offered at low introductory prices and the manufacturer or wholesaler will provide the retailer with special informative displays of the product as well as offer special rewards to the consumer.

Many times a manufacturer will not offer displays but you will want to promote certain merchandise nevertheless. Basic ways through which you may create your own in-store promotions are:

  • window displays
  • special in-store displays
  • signs and posters
  • personal selling efforts


Retail displays

Both in-house displays of merchandise and advertising displays should be:

  • attention getting in coloration and layout
  • informative in regard to the product
  • either a direct or subtle sales pitch to convince the customer that he or she needs the product
  • informative of price, especially if it is a ‘special price’

Both display advertising and in-house displays often do well to feature a number of related products, some of which may or may not be on sale.

Past studies in advertising have shown that a person’s eye is generally attracted to the center of a display, then off to the right of center and lastly reaches the edge of the display. It is therefore good practice to place a featured item, which may be on sale, at the center of the display and another product for which you most wish to generate sales, to the immediate right of the featured item. Other related products may be placed outward from around the center of the display.

When creating a display, it is important to tie-in merchandise lines with one another wherever possible. In this way, customers who are in the market for a specific product are also exposed to many related products and accessories which they will often buy. Such tie-in displays also create a more organized appearance of your store and will make products easier to find. For example, a person looking for toothpaste might be more likely to buy a toothbrush, dental floss, or mouthwash if those products are in close proximity to the toothpaste.

Tie-in displays also help to generate impulse buying. Quite often an advertised or ‘sale’ product will draw people into the store who will buy not only the advertised product but will also buy, on impulse, other unadvertised merchandise. Sales are often helpful to impulse buying since, when people feel they are getting a good bargain, they are often likely to reciprocate by purchasing other merchandise from you with money saved from the sale.


Sales effort

All promotions and attempts to interest customers in new lines, new products, or in special sales, will work better if they are supported with sales effort. For example, just before a product is rung up at the cash register, it is always a good idea to ask a customer whether he or she knows of a special sale, knows of a special product you are promoting, or could use something that goes well with the things the customer has already purchased.

If such reminders are given in a friendly way without being persistent, many customers will make additional inquiries and often additional purchases.


On-the-job activity

For your next in-store promotion, you might try using a tie-in display, with the featured item in the center of the display, surrounded by related products or accessories.

If possible, discuss your ideas with a person knowledgeable in advertising; pursue any additional ideas which may arise from such a discussion.