Here in San Francisco, the Haight-Ashbury district is probably most famous for being the birthplace of the hippie counterculture movement in the ’60s. These days, the bell bottoms and peasant blouses are long gone (mostly), but the neighborhood remains home to dozens of locally owned retail shops, eateries and bars welcoming both residents and the streams of tourists that flock to the famous intersection every day.
But the creative spirit hasn’t completely left Haight-Ashbury. A stroll down Haight Street reveals some clever storefront marketing tactics that shops and restaurants are using to bring foot traffic through their doors. The best part? They’re easy for anyone to implement, and practically free. Check them out.
1. Free Treats
Kids Only, a shop that sells unique kids toys, clothes and gear, knows just how to attract its core customer – by offering free treats, like mini cupcakes and cookies, just inside the store entrance. Who can resist? Certainly not tots with their parents in tow.
Similarly, several retailers along Haight Street offer doggie bowls filled with water right outside their doors – fitting, since San Francisco is home to more dogs than children. While Fido is taking a water break, chances are his human mom or dad is checking out the storefront. One shop takes it a step further by posting a sign right above the water bowl that says, “Free Dog Treats Inside at the Register!”
Think about what you can offer that’s simple and free to entice passersby to give your shop a second look. If you’re in the food business, the easy option would be to dish out samples of your best-selling products. But any type of business can make this storefront marketing tactic work; a pitcher of cold lemonade on a sweltering day, for example, is a welcoming treat regardless of what you’re actually selling.
2. Unusual Distractions
“Whoa, where are those bubbles coming from?!”
The Bubble Guy is a well-known fixture in Haight-Ashbury. Every so often, he’ll park his bubble-making stroller in front of a business and let ‘er rip, covering the street with thick clouds of kaleidoscopic bubbles. It’s quite a sight, and attracts a ton of people to whatever store happens to be nearby.
Whether it’s installing a bubble-making machine in front of your shop or blanketing the sidewalk with creative chalk art, one of the keys is to think outside the box. (Just make sure you’re not breaking any city rules.)
3. Creative Sandwich Boards
A sandwich board set up on the sidewalk is a tried-and-true storefront marketing tactic to promote sales or specials. But some creative businesses use it to communicate memorable messages that are unusual enough to attract a second look from passersby.
Taking a scene out of the opening credits of “The Simpsons,” locally owned Shoe Biz on Haight Street often sets out a sandwich board with a drawing of Bart Simpson writing, “I will not buy from Zappos, I will not buy from Zappos” over and over on the blackboard. Lately, Goorin Bros. Hat Shop has been showing off a board with the word “Pharrell who?!” in reference to the music artist’s scene-stealing Grammy hat. Pretty clever, right?
Have you seen any creative ways retailers are enticing passersby to step inside their stores? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.
© 2014, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.