Why it pays to go large on events in your store?
Running themed community events has long since been a strategy advocated by The Partners for Growth Retailer Advisory Panel, to help establish a store as a community hub. The panel members themselves have seen extensive benefits as a result of their community event activities, including increasing shopper awareness, engagement and footfall, as well as building customer loyalty and a trusted reputation amongst the community they serve.
If the central role convenience stores play in their communities was ever in doubt, the Coronavirus Pandemic has firmly established their position at the heart of communities, as they became the go-to destination for shoppers not wanting to travel too far from their home in order to minimise the risk of infection.
Panel member Mandeep Singh of Singh’s Premier comments “Getting involved in the community takes your customer engagement to the next level. It’s something we can do better than the big supermarkets. People really appreciate you putting something back into the community, they talk to you more and they’re more likely to support you. It also makes the job more enjoyable, as customers like coming in and we like seeing them, which was so important to us all during the pandemic’.
He continues, “Making the most of events is a big part of our community engagement, as it’s a very clear way of creating a buzz in store and in the wider community. We started with sponsorship of one football team, then two, then 10. We now run a charity football tournament every year at the Sheffield United stadium. We have days when we and the customers dress up – the last one was as superheroes – and we’ve had giveaways of signed rugby balls for the Rugby World Cup. Nowadays, people have started asking us what we’re up to next.’
Dean Holborn of Holborn’s comments, ‘The major event that retailers will most likely be embracing in 2022 is the Queens Platinum Jubilee weekend, when the country the country comes together to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. Because the government have given an additional bank holiday for the celebratory weekend and the queen is by many held in such high regards, it will be a great opportunity for communities to come together to celebrate.’
At the centre of official celebrations will be a Platinum Jubilee Pageant, featuring over 5,000 people from across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, coming together against the backdrop of Buckingham Palace and the surrounding streets. It will combine street arts, theatre, music, circus, carnival and costume and celebrate the service of Her Majesty’s reign, as well as honouring the collective service of people and communities across the country.
Holborn continues, ‘we had an amazing weekend celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with the community, with lots of activities in and around the store, including decorative baskets and bunting and in the wider community we erected a big marquee and served lunch, teas and dinner, which really bought the community together. We are looking to build on this for the Platinum Jubilee weekend by working closely with the Parish Council. We will again be erecting a big marquee in the school grounds and serve tea on the Friday and have a big BBQ with 250 people on the Saturday, with the wine being supplied by the shop. We are also going to produce a book of the year, in which the community will be submitting their photographs capturing the celebrations. We want to make this a weekend to remember for the whole community.’
Holborn adds, I would urge convenience retailers to get behind events in their store. Events in general and The Platinum Jubilee particular, are great ways to put your business at the heart of the community, which in the long run will translate into sales and customer loyalty, because if shoppers realise how much you put into the community, they will want to support you by coming back and keep spending more: it’s a win-win situation on both sides.
How to start putting your store at the heart of your Community
It doesn’t have to be complicated to embrace community events in your store. You could start small and then build up to bigger events like the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
- Provide services for vulnerable people – e.g. home deliveries for the elderly in bad weather
- Create a community fund to support local activities, schools, or charities
Build links with your local school, e.g. liaising with the school secretary to ensure you stock the ingredients for events such as Red Nose Day cake sales
- Sponsor local plays or sports clubs
- Help organise or sponsor community events, e.g. Fireworks Night
- Give away mince pies and mulled wine at Christmas, host carol singers, or sell Christmas trees.
- Hold a cookery demonstration or themed event for a special event – e.g. Diwali, Pancake Day, Halloween or Chinese New Year – with targeted promotions
- (For forecourts) why not arrange a ‘ladies’ evening’, giving car maintenance tips
- Have a formal reopening after a refit
- Organise a charity fundraising stunt at your store
These are only a few examples of how you can create interest and engagement locally. And why not invite the local MP, the mayor or some other local dignitary or VIP?
Shout about it!
But organising it is only the first step. You also need to tell people about it. Post detail on social media sites and don’t be shy about contacting your local news outlets – radio stations, local papers, online bulletin boards and community magazines etc. (Have a look at our guide to writing a Press Release in our business tools section here, to help you?)
Tips for using social media
Create a Facebook page for your store and keep people up to date with your promotions and offers, as well as activities. Start by inviting all your friends and family to join, then spread the word among your customers – give them an incentive such as member only deals. Check out how Mandeep Singh has used social media to put his store at the heart of the community here.
Don’t be shy, here’s some suggestions to get you started:
- Introduce the staff
- Offer a ‘deal of the day’
- Add recipe ideas (NB. Ensure you stock all the ingredients!)
- Post jokes or similar to keep potential customers entertained and interested.
- If you aren’t already using social media, consider using Twitter or Facebook too. This could give you immediate access to regular customers.