Every Tuesday evening, a handful of locals arrive at The Orry Mill in Glasgow to improve their crocheting skills. They chat as they work, make new friends and leave with a keepsake as a reminder of their evening. While there, they might pick up a ball of yarn or two for a home project they’re working on, replace their knitting needles or invest in the latest product the retailer has on offer.
The crocheters enjoy a cosy, creative evening, and The Orry Mill enjoys a smattering of sales – a nice boost to its monthly takings. The following evening, it’s the same again, but this time it’s a group of newbie needle felters.
There’s been an influx of independent retailers turning to in-person events to get feet through the door and create memorable experiences. We’re talking wine-tastings, author talks and, like at The Orry Mill, creative classes – events that build a community while promoting in-store products and sales. These are perfect intros for shoppers who love to buy local. They can learn about your catalogue of brands, discover a new skill or simply meet like-minded people.
If you’re not already hosting in-person events, now’s the time to start. They provide the perfect opportunity to forge deeper relationships with local shoppers, build brand loyalty, increase foot traffic, encourage word-of-mouth sales and highlight independent makers.
In-person event ideas to engage local shoppers
Ready to get to work? Here are some in-person event ideas from real-life independent retailers to get your creative juices flowing.
Host a launch party
Give your latest product line the welcome it deserves with a fun launch party. Brighton plant shop Hi Cacti hosts regular parties to celebrate new products and sales. A local mixologist creates delicious cocktails and a popular taco cafe keeps shoppers well-fed as they browse and buy.
Invite shoppers to watch local makers at work
The makers are the heart of independent retailers. These are the talented craftspeople and creative brand owners who put products in your store, so give them some of the limelight. We Are Born and Bred, a studio-cum-shop, invites shoppers to watch their in-house jewellers and artists at work throughout the day to get a glimpse into the product-creation life cycle.
Schedule meetups and community events
Provide a hub for locals to meet like-minded people and try out new hobbies. Cavanagh & Baker, a wine emporium on the Isle of Wight, hosts wine-tasting events for shoppers, while Kett’s Books in Norfolk runs a programme of school visits, themed evenings and children’s events.
Put on in-store talks and shows
Shine a spotlight on local faces and some of the talent that brings your store to life. The Portobello Bookshop regularly hosts author talks and signings, while vinyl shop Jumbo Records puts on an exciting schedule of in-store gigs, listening parties and collaborative jam sessions.
Run workshops and classes
Take a leaf out of The Orry Mill’s book and teach shoppers a thing or two while promoting your in-store products. Workshops and classes are a great way to introduce locals to your product line and host a memorable evening. For example, Folkestone-based Moo Like a Monkey hosts sock caterpillar workshops and classes for new mums.
How to plan your in-person events
The possibilities are endless for in-person events, and it can be tempting to go all in with a busy events schedule – but hold your horses. Successful events take time to plan and execute, so get the foundations in place first and use that to grow and flourish.
1. Consider your audience
Who are your main customers? The type of in-person event you put on will depend on the demographics and interests of your shoppers. Take inspiration from the products you sell – if you sell wine, it’s a no-brainer to host a wine-tasting event – and speak to your customers to get their thoughts. You can ask them when they visit your store, poll followers on social media or send an email to your newsletter subscribers to find out what type of events would be most popular.
2. Iron out the details
Once you’ve decided on the type of in-person event you’re going to host, it’s time to nail down the finer details. This is when you’ll decide on the date, time and price of the event, but it’s also a good opportunity to consider your store’s capacity and who else you might need to involve to pull it off – do you need extra staff on hand? What about in-house makers?
This is the time to figure out your budget, too. There’s plenty you can DIY if your purse strings are tight, or perhaps you want to hire caterers or a guest speaker. Think about what you can do yourself and what you need extra help with. Then, factor this into your budget.
3. Create your promotional assets
You’re going to want to shout about your event from the rooftops, but you’ll need some marketing assets to help you out. This might include social media graphics to share on Instagram and Facebook, posters to hand out to other local businesses and email copy to send out to your subscribers. It helps to have all of this sorted before you start marketing your event so you’re not scrabbling around at the last minute – organisation is key!
4. Market your event
The time has come to spread the word about your upcoming in-person event. Think about your most successful forms of marketing in the past and stick to those channels, but also identify ways you can reach new audiences who might not have heard of your store but might be interested in the event.
Here are some marketing ideas for inspiration:
- Send postcard invitations to past customers
- Send an email invite to your subscriber list
- Create a Facebook or Eventbrite event
- Post on your social media channels
- Put flyers in surrounding stores or stick them up outside your own store
- Handpost invites through doors
5. Document the event
It’s easy to get swept up in the moment, but it’s important to document the event so you have content to share next time. Take photos and film footage that you can share live on your social channels for people who couldn’t make it – this will also get locals excited about your next event if they feel like they’re missing out.
6. Collect attendee details
Events are a great opportunity to boost your email list, which you can use to nurture attendees into customers. To make follow-ups easier, leave a sign-up sheet somewhere prominent during the event to collect the email addresses of interested guests.
7. Follow up with attendees
Make your next in-person event even better by following up with attendees for feedback. Ask them what they liked and how your event could be improved – you can even use the feedback as testimonials to share on your social channels.
8. Do it all again
If your event was a success – why not do it again? Once you know what works and what your customers enjoy, you can start to map out a calendar of inspiring events to increase footfall, engage customers and build awareness of your store and the brands you work with.
Ready to host your next in-person event?
In-person events are a great way to build awareness of your store, increase local footfall and introduce shoppers to new products and brands. Whether you plan to run workshops, classes, meetups or launch parties, make sure you’re cherry-picking the very best local makers to work with. Browse local brands on Faire to get started.