Competing With Mass Merchants During Back to School

It’s that time of year again when customers begin to think about all the things “Back to School” means for them. For some, this means shifting their daycare schedule. For others, this means stocking up on pencils, folders, backpacks and other school essentials. And yet for some, it simply means less foot traffic in their stores since they cater to a school crowd. Whatever Back to School means to you, consider how you can co-exist among big-box stores this time of year.

Promote Back to School Specials Beyond Back to School Basics

Even if you don’t cater to a school crowd, don’t neglect the consumer buzz that surrounds this time of year. Back to school means more than school supplies. It translates to new clothes, new footwear, new outdoor accessories, new seasonal activities and much more. Consider what your store offers that screams Fall and a shift of seasons, then promote it NOW. Don’t wait till leaves start turning colors and the air turns cooler. Instead, start talking the language customer’s are already hearing from our big box friends (did we say friends?) and start getting in the Back to School game.

Support the Feeling of Fall & All The Comes With It

A shift of seasons also introduces a change in mindsets. Play along with these feelings and use them to your marketing advantage. Get customers excited for football, pumpkins, apple orchards, warmer clothes and other activities and products known for this time of year. Through in-store displays and product assortment, get your customers excited and ready to buy. While our big box friends may have millions of dollars to spend in their marketing, any skilled indie knows that what it’s really about is customer relationships. Don’t neglect this as you prepare for this season change. Make your customers want to come to your store versus any other since you’ll have the best experience in town to offer them!

Address Big Box Retailers Head On

In the true spirit of football – which is quickly approaching us – tackle your big box competitors head on. Identify what you can do that they might be, then see how you can do it on an indie scale (and dime). For example, if Target is giving back to local schools… why can’t you? For every transaction over $10, offer to donate $1 to your local high school or elementary school. If you have a hundred customers, that’s $100… which is a lot cheaper than an AD in the local paper. Generate even further buzz about this by reaching out to your local press – which is free to do and free to receive. Chances are you’ll get some great media coverage while also increasing sales… and giving to a good cause. Get creative before you get scared when it comes to going up against the big boxes… remember, you have more on your side than you think (customer service, local power, ambiance, etc).

Finally, go with the flow. If your community doesn’t start to shop for back to school till September versus early August, then hold off. Always consider what is happening in your local community, then react to it through your store events, promotions, inventory and more.

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