For home and gift shops, the retail landscape is more competitive than ever. Since these stores sell a lot of what consumers might consider commodities, it’s easy to lose out on establishments selling the same items for less.
Fortunately, your business doesn’t have to undergo the same fate. With some creative and modern tactics, you’ll be able to differentiate yourself and win over customers without competing on price or products.
Read on to learn more:
1. Design a unique in-store experience
Shopping at your gift store should be anything but ordinary. Don’t just place items on your shelves and call it a day; make it a point to design a customer experience that people will remember.
Oklahoma, an independent store in Manchester that sells everything from cactus lemon juicers to handmade jewelry, does this incredibly well. The store is often referred to as an Aladdin’s Cave, because it allows shoppers to discover great finds and treasures.
“It’s not a conventional retail space,” explains co-owner Yaw Djang. “There are things hanging from the ceilings and the walls. That’s important to us, it’s not just what we sell, it’s essentially how we sell it and the experience the customer has when they’re going around the shop. We’re certainly trying to create more than a place just to come and get stuff.”
The goal, says Yaw, is to “offer customers the kind of experience you have when you travel to different countries, looking for those unique kinds of treasures.”
2. Leverage technology
Technology will not only ease many operational burdens, it can also improve your customers’ in-store experience. Of course, the types of solutions you should adopt will depend on your business. Below are a few examples of how other retailers are leveraging technology in their stores:
If you’re still using a cash register to manage your retail business, consider adopting a modern point of sale system to streamline various business processes and enhance the shopping experience.
Many point of sale solutions these days go beyond simply letting you ring up sales. A lot of them come with inventory and customer management features that can make running your store a whole lot easier.
When it comes to the in-store experience, these solutions allow associates to assist shoppers better. Tablet-based tools allow them to serve customers from anywhere in the store and mPOS systems can reduce lines at checkout, so customers can get what they need much faster.
Case in point: Borough Kitchen. The cookware retailer stays on top of operations during their busiest hours with the help of their iPad POS. Whenever things get busy in-store, they simply switch open their additional iPad registers so they can serve customers faster.
“Within our shops, at peak times, and in particular at Christmas time, we can add a new till instantly by switching on another iPad,” says founders David Caldana & Justin Kowbel. “That just wouldn’t work with a traditional till system.”
Robust reporting and analytics
Having access to the right insights can help you make more intelligent business decisions. This is why it pays to invest in reporting and analytics technology that’ll help you collect and analyze the data you need.
Most modern POS solutions come with their own reporting features, so if you’re already using one, be sure to take advantage of your provider’s data and analytics tools. Ideally, you’ll want a solution that tracks important retail metrics including revenue, margins, profit, conversions, and more.
One great example of a gift shop that’s making good use of reports is Podarok. The UK-based retailer drills down on their sales data and makes staffing and product decisions accordingly.
“My favorite feature has to be the sales reports. By day, by month, by period, by hour, but most importantly, by supplier, says Podarok’s Andrey Pronin. “We can predict what is going to happen next year and therefore plan our staff rosters and product ordering in advance.”
The above-mentioned technologies are just a few examples of tools that you can adopt in your business. They’re certainly worth checking out if you’re looking to upgrade things in your store.
However, the best way to determine which technologies are right for you is to do a bit of research yourself. Identify any issues in your store and look into how technology can address them. Once you’ve found tools that you can implement, test them out and gather feedback from users to find out if they’re right fit for your store.
Customer relationship management
Arm your business with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that will allow you to collect customer data, which you can then use to drive loyalty and repeat purchases.
We can see this in action in TheSuperCool, a South Melbourne-based gift emporium The store has a loyalty program called SuperCoolAmigos, and uses Vend and Collect Rewards to run the program. In the three years that they’ve been using Vend, TheSuperCool has been able to grow their email list by 750%.
Thanks to their savvy CRM initiatives, TheSuperCool now has a solid database that they can continuously market to.
3. Add value through services
Providing services that your customers can’t get from other homeware or gift stores can be an effective way to set yourself apart from competitors and add value to the shopping experience. Here are some things you could try:
Gift wrapping – Consider offering gift-wrapping services in your store. Not only will it serve as a convenient option for shoppers, but it can put extra revenue in your pocket at the same time. Even if the service itself is complimentary, you could use boxes and wrappers as upsells to shoppers.
Consultations – Depending on what type of store you’re running, you could provide consultations to help customers make the right purchases.
Check out what The Container Store is doing. The retailer, which specializes in storage and organizational tools, offers an in-home organization service called Contained Home. For a fee, a professional organizer will come to your home and offer advice as well as organizational services to spruce up your space.
Classes or events – Bring people together in your shop for a few hours of learning and mingling. Plenty of forward-thinking retailers are now holding in-store classes and events that drive traffic, sales, and customer engagement.
Take for instance, Michael’s. To better connect with customers and add value to the in-store experience, the arts and crafts retailer holds classes on various DIY or art projects. Topics include cake decoration, knitting, jewelry making, and more.
Serve food and drinks – If it makes sense for your business, why not offer on-site dining options? It’ll give people more reasons to swing by–and-stay–in your store.
A good example of this in action can be seen in Sustainable NYC, a store that focuses on green and sustainable products. Sustainable NYC has a cafe on-site, which according to owner Dominique Camacho, has been a boon for business.
“We love how people come in here every five minutes. Just having the traffic—it makes a difference,” she told GiftShopMag.com.
Understandably, having an in-store cafe isn’t always feasible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply a few food and drink components in your store. Why not hold events and serve nibbles or hors’devours? Or consider offering some refreshments to your customers as they browse your shop.
4. Get out there and freshen up your inventory
If your products aren’t selling, you should consider freshening up your merchandise. Go out there, talk to your customers, see what’s trending, and use those insights the next time you order new products.
That’s what Cat Socrates, a beautiful design shop in Singapore, is doing. According to owner Hellen Jiang, Cat Socrates has a lot of regular customers, so keeping their product assortment fresh is a must.
“We’re always trying to find new brands and items, and we look at sales reports to determine the quantity and type of goods,” she said. On top of that, “we listen to feedback from our customers.”
You should also consider attending trade shows, as these events can offer insights into the latest trends. If you’re in the gift and homeware industry, notable events you could attend include ASD Las Vegas, the Autumn Gift and Home Fair, and Las Vegas Market.
For more tips on how to find great new products for your stores, check out our previous post, How to Source Products for Your Retail Store: An Easy Guide to Buying Inventory that Sells
Staying competitive in the gift and homeware industry can be tough, but with the right products, tools, and in-store strategies, this task is completely doable. We hope the tips above gave you some ideas that you can implement in your stores.
Have more tips for gift shop and homeware storeowners? Weigh in below.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.