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12 December 2017 / by gareth hill

Why In-Store Events Are Important for High St Retail 

A recent study has shown that retailers who host in-store events can see annual turnover increase by upwards of 14%. In this article we’ll look at why, as e-commerce continues to grow its share of the retail market, brick and mortar retail stores are needing to deliver new experiences for their customers.  

As a child I never entirely enjoyed the prospect of heading into town on a shopping expedition with my parents. Unless, of course, there was something in it for me. A new Star Wars figure, a burger from Wimpy. Or, if it was during those exciting December days in the lead up to Christmas, then maybe a trip to see Santa – who seemed able to miraculously frequent grottos at every major department store in town.

Santa’s Grotto has been a staple, seasonal in-store attraction in department stores for decades.


Well, while I’m sure that it’s partly due to shop owners being thoroughly filled with festive cheer, there’s also a fairly well-established commercial reason for committing to such events year after year.

Namely, if the kids are wanting to come into the store, so the parents holding the purse-strings are following in-tow.   

A clear demonstration that there is, and always has been, a commercial value to the in-store event.

The Convenience of E-Commerce

The Christmas shopping season is a critical time for the retail industry as a whole, with both traditional bricks and mortar stores and modern online retailers vying for their share of the consumer pie.

At present, the high street still prevails, but e-commerce is closing the gap, with the Harvard Business Review suggesting that the gap will likely have closed completely within the next two decades.   

Shopping online offers a level of convenience and efficiency against which brick and mortar retail businesses struggle to compete. I used to dread the shopping trip to town as a child, but there are plenty of adults who have similar feelings when it comes to spending time in a crowded department store. If you know what you want to buy, then why go through the hassle, when you can simply search, click and pay online?

Unless, like the visit to Santa’s Grotto, there’s something in it for you.

Harry Potter and the Midnight Book Launch

When the script for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play was released as a hardback, it was always going to be a major seller to the millions of Potter fans (of all ages). Clearly the easiest way to get your hands on the book was to pre-order online and have it delivered on the day of the release to your home.

But where was the fun in that, when you could join tens of thousands of fellow muggles, replete in Hufflepuff robes or Gryffindor scarves at a midnight store opening of your local Waterstones?

A simple book launch turned into a major event, something memorable to be a part of, and a chance to attract new young customers across the threshold of book shops the length and breadth of the land.

The internet (and the subsequent birth of the e-reader) has provided the traditional book shops, be it well-known High St brands like Waterstones or local independents, with some major challenges over the past 15 years; forcing them to re-think the way they operate.

Using some of their space as a coffee shop has been one of the popular ways to do this; but it’s also about adding a personalised touch to the service. Staff recommendations, book of the month clubs; stock that represents the tastes of the local market (as opposed to a generic book list across every store).

And in-store events.

Book launches, author readings, themed nights.

Reasons perhaps, why Waterstones were able to register a £9.8m pre-tax profit in 2016 – for the first time since before the 2008 recession.

The Retail Experience

The Harry Potter example typifies the way in which an event can create a buzz around your store and your brand. But what you don’t want is for it to be a one-night stand. These are the customers with whom you want to build a long-term relationship. 

Getting your customers to register for an event, to book online to attend the latest fashion launch, wine tasting, book reading, or latest adventure from your favourite wizard, allows you to access the data to glean invaluable insight into buying habits and trends. All of which can be fed back to the client by way of delivering personal recommendations when they visit the store.

Hosting in-store events can present an opportunity to provide a more personalised experience for your customers. A part of something a little bit special. A chance to offer the VIP treatment that can make them feel a little more valued, more than just a number on a revenue spreadsheet.

And a valued customer, tends to be a loyal customer.

At thinkBooker, we specialise in online booking systems for training courses, classes, activities and events - optimised for efficiency, growth and ongoing client satisfaction. 

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