I am a fan of shopping in-person at any local tack shop. When I travel, I seek them out and see what people are buying in that area of the country. I also like to fondle the leather (ok, I may have a teensy problem, haha), try things on, and have a chat with the people running things. All over the US, the local tack shop has been struggling. By implementing some or all of these ideas, it’s possible to compete. This past January, I heard the same story over and over while talking with vendors and shop owners at AETA to see what was new this season.
“We are losing our shirts to Amazon.”
“People come in to be measured and then take photos and buy online.”
“I don’t know what to do with my shop anymore to get sales.”
Sound familiar? Don’t lose faith. There ARE ways to fight and win your business back. Some of these tactics may require working with someone that can show you the ropes with some new technology or add some writing expertise, but you can adapt and win if you implement the tactics below. These are really a starting point and I’m hoping that once you begin thinking about these, you’ll come up with even more ideas as you go along. I’ve given you SO MANY ideas in just this article alone!
Focus on building your social media marketing.
Every day, I see shops fighting on social media to stay present and keep people excited about visiting and shopping with them. Staying visible to your area shoppers (and beyond) is key to letting them know you have new inventory, are excited about what you are doing (excitement is contagious), and have the experience to help them. There are differences in how people use social platforms, and recently, strategies for Facebook have changed with their new updates in the last few months. Read how to avoid rookie social media mistakes in our popular blog.
Email marketing is not dead.
Business bloggers love to pronounce email DOA; however, this is untrue. If you look at trends and the ways that people prefer to have information delivered, you can still benefit from your database. A key point here: YOUR database. Buying or renting lists of people that you are cold emailing is not going to be worth the effort. Keep your messages targeted at your customer base for the most bang for the buck. If you are in Canada, UK, or the EU, then more stringent rules apply that you had better be aware of before going in this direction.
For you readers in the US, check out this link instead: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Beginning Email Marketing
Offer fast shipping.
For many people, getting products in hand fast is the key to success. You can just as easily drop ship to a tack room or office as the big guys can. If your distributors can’t do this, figure out how to charge for shipping overnight and stock some handy boxes so you can do a run at the end of the day past the FedEx drop point.
Shop online and pick up in-store.
This tactic has been picking up steam, as people can get immediate gratification whenever they have time to shop from home and pick up their order the same day. It’s better than overnight shipping (free for everyone) and better for you as people have to set foot in your shop to pick up. Don’t have a newer website that can offer e-commerce? Maybe your site needs an overhaul anyway, and this is the opportune time to get it done. (See what I just did there?)
Make sure older riders are represented in your store.
Right now, women over 40 have the most spending power in their history, time to ride, and willingness to spend their cash on their ponies. They are done raising kids and are ready to enjoy their hard-earned me time. Consider stocking figure-friendly riding brands, no-chafe undies, trendy sun blockers styles, and sun hats. There are brands out there that are NON-low rise, well-made, and offer great value. Wide-calf tall boots (for gals that work out) and glam helmets are a plus. Non-melt makeup or lip gloss that doesn’t attract horsehair (Seriously, does that exist??) – bonus.
Be present at horse shows.
You don’t need to invest in a custom van or trailer, but everyone loses a bat, needs to try on a larger sized coat or forgets their spur straps at some point. Frequently, I find vendors carry things that I haven’t seen online or are of better quality. Last year, my stock tie was not working, and I needed a last-minute replacement to be able to breathe. The new one was miles nicer than my old one, and I went into the ring with more confidence (and didn’t pass out).
Offer better customer service.
This is a stretch in many places, sadly. How many stores have you walked in where the persons behind the counter didn’t bother to acknowledge you? Or had no idea how to answer your questions? Train your staff (if you have them). Remind people that you have valuable expertise in specialty fitting for tall boots and helmets. Bring in and advertise a professional saddle fitter – unload those used saddles stacking up at the same time. Do you offer blanket cleaning and repairs? Can you mend tack or send it out for repair locally? Do you know the rules and regulations for embroidering on FEI level dressage pads? Have a reasonable return policy. Offer holiday shopping support to husbands who understand that the tack needs to be in the stockings, but have no clue what to buy. Seriously, I could go on and on here.
Clean up the shelves.
Nobody is interested in inventory that has a dust ring around it or hasn’t changed position since the last time they visited. Keep it clean and inviting. Old stock that looks dated well past when it was on-trend? Clearance or donate that pile and move on with better things.
Be involved with your community.
This sounds like an obvious one, but get involved with your local pony club, dressage association, and riding therapy barns. If you are fortunate enough to have some college or IEA teams nearby, make sure they know you are around and be willing to work with them. The more people that know your face and what you do, the more interested people are when they are ready to shop. Eventually, they will need your help.
Become a destination shop
Big-name trainer doing a clinic in the area soon? Offer a wine and shop night with 20% off clean white pads and polos to help people look their best. Offer a Kentucky Derby Sale, dress up, and wear a big hat. Sell cowboy boots? Offer line dancing lessons with an expert once a month. Pilates for Riders? Host a fashion show? You see where this is going. Give people more reasons to come and see you. Events are fun to plan and fun for shoppers to attend.
This entire list of 10 ideas should have jump-started some great ideas to get you motivated and fired-up to compete and win. For more helpful and timely information on marketing the best retail business possible, read our blog post on improving your customer experience.