Getting any small business to the point of finally opening your storefront doors is a major accomplishment. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears had to go into making this a reality: signing a lease, getting proper licensing, securing financing, etc. But, of course, the hard work is hardly over. You now need to focus on making sure the first few weeks of business are as successful as possible. Now it’s time to think about how to plan a grand opening for your store. Hosting a grand opening is a traditional way of getting your name on the map and attracting your initial customer base. It grabs attention and often comes with a promotion. But it’s not easy to do well. Today, we’ve put together a guide with some specific grand opening ideas for retail stores that will get your SMB off to the right start.
1. Determine Specific Goals and Grand Opening Ideas
As we’ll talk more about later, this event is your first opportunity to really market your store. And, as with any marketing plan, it’s critical to make a detailed, targeted, and specific plan.
Start by choosing which marketing outlets you’ll pursue. Flyers, cross-promoting with other local businesses, online ads, social media campaigns, newspapers, radio, television, etc. are all popular avenues for grand opening marketing. But first, evaluate who your target audience is so that you choose a productive direction.
Figure out how to make the event memorable, too. Your goal should be to maximize the number of guests that come while keeping it organized and structured. Plan for a particular range of attendees so that you can set up your space accordingly.
It’s also important to choose what you’ll promote. You want to offer something attractive but it can’t come at too big of a cost. Elect certain products that you’ll discount or give away and stick to just those. Don’t be more generous than you can afford to be.
2. Choose a Strict Budget for the Event
With that in mind, come up with a budget for the event. There are widely varying estimates for how much of your annual budget you should dedicate to a grand opening. So there’s no hard and fast rule here. What’s important is determining an amount and sticking to it.
First, it’s good practice for future budgeting and spending. But more importantly, it will help you stick with a concise plan for the day. Obviously, you want to draw in as many people as possible, but that can’t come at the expense of other important business operations. The last thing you want to do is find yourself below water right off the bat.
So consider what your estimated annual budget is for your first year and choose a percent that will go toward a grand opening. For some businesses, this might be as much as 20/25%. Others might only feel comfortable spending 5%.
And there are options for either. New businesses can choose to spend on more expensive advertising – radio or TV – or on cheaper options – flyers, Facebook, business cards. Similarly, additional expenditures for the day like product giveaways, food and beverages, or entertainment are entirely up to you. You can go all out or keep it small and relaxed. Just find the right fit for your business.
3. Set the Date and Organize Details
Choosing a date seems easy because it’s arbitrary, but there are a few things to watch out for:
Time of day and week are important to consider based on your target audience. When do your shoppers normally shop? Day or night? Weekend or weekday? What is the average age range?
Watch out for competing events, like other grand openings, big box sales, local events (like a state fair or summer festival), and widely celebrated holidays. You want your grand opening to be an event that people can treat as an excuse to go out rather than have to force it into their schedules.
Even if you have a single-day grand opening event, keep your promotions running for a few weeks. “Grand Opening Sale” is catchy and will continue to attract new customers. Plus, more time means that you’ll have more sales metrics to analyze and optimize for the next promotion. Some businesses also open and run a promotion before the main event. This allows for some last-minute tweaks and some additional preparation time.
4. Advertise, Promote, and Market Your Grand Opening
How your money will be spent is arguably the hardest part of this process. There are many different advertising avenues to go down, so narrowing it down can be difficult to do. Let’s look at several of the different options you’ll have to promote your business’s grand opening.
Print is not dead! Newspaper ads are a great way to reach a broad, local audience, albeit an older one. Over half of those 65+ read the paper on a daily basis. And even 17% of the 18-24 range still do, too. Newspaper advertising reaches a larger segment of the population than many assume. Prices vary widely depending on the publication and the type of ad.
Podcasts have led to a massive resurgence in radio listenership. Over 90% of Americans listen each week, and that’s largely ubiquitous across various ages and races/ethnicities, making it a great option for those businesses trying to reach a diverse audience. Again, prices fluctuate based on the market, time slot, and length of the ad.
More affordable that radio or newspaper ads, social media platforms and Google provide a simple advertising outlet for a grand opening. Google Ads allows you to run extremely targeted campaigns with transparent pricing and suggestions for optimization. In addition, register your business with Google so that it shows up for local searches. Facebook is a great space to reach a vast number of eyes at a low cost. Their event pages also gives companies a specific area to advertise their grand opening. Instagram gives retailers the chance to build brand identity and, in some cases, foster a loyal base even before opening. Social media advertising can create some hype and is the best channel for finding a younger audience core.
Print or online coupons can help promote many things, including your grand opening. Online or app-based coupons are probably the most useful. Of course, Groupon is a wildly popular option, but many businesses have to sacrifice a large portion of their profits. Lesser known alternatives, like Coupons, RetailMeNot, and Zulily, will be more affordable.
Going to door-to-door with flyers is a tried and true form of local advertising. If your target market is consumers in a very defined area, think about neighboring businesses where you might be able to leave small flyers or postcards. In addition to promoting your store’s opening, it will build community relationships, increase word of mouth, and help foster future marketing partnerships. Flyers can also be stapled to polls and bulletin boards in areas of high foot traffic or solicited in residential areas.
Like coupons, this can be done by print or digitally. Large scale print mailings still happen, but are widely seen as unnecessarily wasteful and have low conversion rates. Email campaigns, however, are much more affordable, less wasteful, and allow new businesses to reach a massive audience; the hardest part is filling out a long list, particularly as an up and coming business.
Like flyers, sign spinning is ideal for businesses that are targeting a local audience. Get an exuberant person on a busy corner and your business’s name will catch a lot of eyes.
Decorate your own storefront area. It will draw attention from any car or foot traffic, getting more people talking about the big event. Signs, banners, balloons, and other bright colors will also make the location obvious for your guests. Most attendees will not have been to your store (it’s your grand opening after all), so make it stress-free for them by making your store stand out.
5. Have a Detailed Plan for the Day
Preparing for a grand opening takes months of hard work and plenty of planning. So when you get there, don’t let anything fall through the cracks.
Have enough staff on hand to help with small things throughout the event. Make sure you have people greeting guests, cleaning up any waste, stocking any necessary tables and shelves, etc.
Check your sound if you plan on having music or any other audio. Last minute technical difficulties are ridiculously stressful.
Have a plan in place in case your run out of a certain item. You never want to overorder and end up having to waste anything, but running out of a popular item during your grand opening is even worse. Device a backup plan to get more supplies if you are 86d on snacks, drinks, or giveaways.
Put some games together to break the ice, especially for the first few people that arrive. The beginning of any party is the hardest to get through, with awkward small talk and uncomfortable mingling. A game of cornhole, prize wheel, or fair-style game makes the mood lighter and gets any kids attending immediately involved.
Make a contest of some sort one of the highlights of the day where you give the winner a big gift. This could be as simple as having a raffle using everyone’s entrance tickets, or you could organize a competitive event like a no-hand pie eating contest. Check to see if you need permits for any contests or giveaways, too. Local laws vary so you want to be sure you don’t get fined or shut down on day 1.
Contact any local press that you think might want to attend. Just don’t overdo it.
6. How to Plan a Grand Opening with KORONA
Before you throw the big event, you’ll need to get a point of sale system to keep track of how the day went. You want to know how many people came by, what did they spend, did they leave phone numbers and emails, what inventory did you sell, what did you give away, how were total sales measured against total costs, and much more. A top retail point of sale will be able to give your business this information automatically. Even if your grand opening is more of a soft opening without any sales, it’s important to get off on the right foot with proper inventory record keeping and costing.
Implementing the right system starting at the very beginning will make your life much easier during the stressful first few years of business. Check out more about KORONA by clicking below. If it seems like it might be a good fit for your business, try the software out for free! You can have an unlimited free trial with no commitments or credit card.
Among other things, Michael writes about trends and tips in retail for KORONA POS. His focus is on bringing small business owners a more holistic approach to growth. In his spare time, you'll find him hiking somewhere in the southwest. Connect with him on LinkedIn.