Position your store as a place to buy and support the local movement
By Linda Cahan
Going local is a huge trend in buying. Locavores are people who choose to buy products and eat food grown or produced within 100 miles of its final destination. The purpose is to cut down on transportation costs, reduce environmental impact and support area businesses.
Localization works for pool and spa retailers as well. Although your merchandise isn’t (in many cases) manufactured locally, you can still be part of this trend in several ways.
1. A Sense of Place
Almost every city and town in the United States has something that sets it apart from its neighboring towns. In Sisters, Oregon, it’s the Three Sisters mountains. In Portland, Oregon, there’s Mount Hood — the eight bridges that cross the rivers and the proliferation of roses (Portland is the Rose City), just to name a few. I picked a town in the middle of the country: Poplar Bluff, Montana. I found a charming reproduction of a European village complete with a windmill, The Iron Horse festival and a downtown revitalization project. Take images from any one of these projects and add them to your store décor through photo blow-ups or locally painted murals.
There may be a scenic overlook nearby that is well-known to both locals and tourists. Use this scene in your store to identify your place as part of the community. Photo blowups can be printed in wallpaper form for reasonable rates. Ideally, a local print company with a large-format digital printer can do the work for you at a reasonable cost. Work locally with a wallpaper hanger as well, and position this photo blowup in a clearly seen focal area. Add track LED lights three feet up from the top of the focal area and three feet out from the face of the wall. Don’t even bother with less expensive incandescent lights. You will pay for the LEDs within one-and-a-half years with bulb-replacement costs as well as lower electric bills. If your community has an interesting historical significance, make that a part of the interior to connect your store with the town. This can be done with photo blowups mounted on foamcore and framed or with old time posters about local events. Framed photos of significant people in the history of your town or city can also be part of your décor. Make sure that whatever you add is large enough to be seen.
2. Connect With Local Events
Every town and city has events that bring people together. Rather than just taping a poster to your window at the request of someone who stopped by, see how you can participate in the event. If the event is near your store, consider having a champagne night for anyone who brings a swimsuit. Offer big towels (with your logo) for drying off and disposable pedicure flip flops; they are available online and very affordable.
If you have a spa that can be hooked up and filled at a local festival, offer free soaks. Weather permitting, this could be a lot of fun on semicool days and nights. This should be your most family-friendly spa unit, as children are the most intrepid. Hook them, and you have a good chance of hooking their parents.
Signs are vital for this to work, and every sign should have your name and logo on the top to remind people that your company is sponsoring the fun. Stick to simplicity with the signs, and bigger is better: Clear fonts and good contrast along with your identifying store colors.
You are probably asked for either money or a product donation at least three times a week by local charitable organizations. It’s not likely that you’re going to be giving away a spa or above-ground pool unless it’s a huge local charity or benefit with an event that attracts a large amount of your designated customer base. There are several ways to deal with the endless requests. One idea is to pick five local organizations a year that you will donate product. You can let the other organizations know you will put them on your list for the following years. Each year, pick five organizations out of a hat, and those will receive contributions. You won’t include the most recent year’s recipients to be fair to the others.
Look at your products and see what will work for even non–pool and spa owners. It’s possible that colorful custom towels with your logo in an unobtrusive area will be an affordable and appropriate giveaway. You can plan ahead by ordering a bunch just for these organizations and for your store. Make them fabulous: Don’t skimp on quality. If you have an identifiable store color, use that as the base color, or pick a great local scene and have that custom printed on your towels. If your donation is being held up in front of hundreds of potential customers and it doesn’t look like much, that’s the impression all those people will have of your store.
3. Buy Local
If possible, buy your store supplies locally. Work with local service people and contractors and get your printing done locally. Let customers know on your website and in your ads that you source as much as possible from area businesses.
4. Localize Your Windows
If you have windows, add a local image to your display. Once again, a photo blowup can be printed on inexpensive vinyl or on fabric and hung from the ceiling. Have one or two flexible mannequins wearing T-shirts that advertise a local attraction or event standing in front of the photo blowup. If there is a school in your area that has fashion marketing or visual merchandising students, ask its department director if you may work with one or two of them to style your mannequins for the window. It may even be possible for them to create a local window display for you as extra credit or as part of an assignment.
5. Get Involved With Your Community
Whether this means joining a town committee, playing golf with friends or going to a PTA meeting, get out of your store whenever possible to interact with members of your area. Get to know people by joining a team, going to church or temple, offering your help on local committees for community events or joining the Chamber of Commerce. Do whatever it takes to become a part of the community in which you’ve chosen to do business. This can be tough when you’re running a shop, but creating goodwill locally will pay off both financially and emotionally over time.
Go local even when you have more than one or two stores. Customize the shopping experience in each of your locations with local images. Trader Joe’s does this successfully around the country by keeping the same logo, floor plan and fixtures but using local artists to add local color on the walls, in the signage and on the end caps. Go local not only to do more business but also to show your support for, and be part of, your chosen community.