Planning a Store Grand Opening in Category Store Marketing
There is no better way to draw attention to a new or newly renovated store than a Grand Opening. For decades, businesses both large and small have held Grand Openings to draw in that precious initial customer base. Here are some basic ideas for coordinating a store grand opening.
Pick a date
While a Grand Opening usually lasts several weeks, choose one day or weekend in particular to hold major festivities. Advertise this “Grand Opening Weekend” in the newspaper, on billboards or with outdoor signage.
Chamber ribbon cutting
Even if you are not a chamber member (although you should be!) most chambers of commerce will do a free ribbon cutting for new or re-opened businesses in a community. There is usually no charge or a very nominal charge ($25-50 dollars) and the chamber will bring out a group of community leaders, have you cut a ribbon with the big scissors and also usually invite the media. They will also usually publish photos and info of the new business in chamber newsletters and publications which can mean lots of great exposure, especially to potential commercial accounts. Decorate your store for the event with some streamers, helium balloons, etc. and be sure to offer some free food like hotdogs or cheese and crackers.
Radio station remote
Radio stations are always looking for places to broadcast live from for remotes and love to grand opening events. Try to do this during the ribbon cutting to get the most bang. Usually they charge, but it’s not a huge cost, usually no more than a couple hundred bucks and you always get way more in air time advertisements than the cost. Have the radio station correspond to the primary ethnic group of the neighborhood your laundry is in (Hispanic, African American, etc.) and while the station usually brings some giveaways like concert tickets, consider adding some give away some items like free wash certificates or little boxes of detergent. Yes, you will have some people just show up looking for freebies, but usually these people are the same ones that use laundromats anyway!
Shopper or free weekly paper advertisements: Local weekly papers are usually dirt cheap to advertise in and always have a great readership among your customer target base. This is a great place to run ads for the grand opening, coupons for a free wash or etc. to get potential customers to come test the store out. Ask about the cost of inserting flyers in with paper. Usually this is very, very inexpensive and some small papers will even do it for free if they are provided with the flyers. This is a great place to insert store coupons printed on neon colored paper.
Use Val-pack or your neighborhood’s free “coupon packs”
If they have them in your area, this is also an overlooked advertising medium that is very affordable and will hit the laundry’s customers. The cost is usually small since there are many other advertisers in there, but the distribution quantity is huge offering great exposure. You can usually target these by neighborhood or zip code and can target just the areas nearest your store.
News tip to local publications
It doesn’t usually take a complete press release to get media coverage - it can often be done with an e-mail. Look up your local publications online and find the contact us section. Most media will have an e-mail list of editors and reporters.
Despite the name, a Grand Opening should usually be held AFTER the laundry has been open for business for several weeks especially if the equipment is newly installed. Imagine the chaos of a store full of customers on that first day, only to discover that a drain line wasn’t installed properly and an entire bank of washers goes down. A grand opening typically should be planned at least 60 to 90 days out, and AFTER the store is opened and functioning. This allows plenty of time to plan and complete tasks, not to mention work any kinks out of the laundry.
Decorate and hang signage to get attention.
Hang banners announcing the grand opening, decorate with streamers and balloons or add anything else that will get attention. Your Dexter Authorized Distributor has Grand Opening banners available. Ask them for more details.
Advertise, advertise, advertise!
In addition to print ads, consider sending out a direct mail piece announcing the upcoming opening and the pricing specials, or pass out fliers if mailings aren’t in the budget. If there are other retail businesses nearby, ask to place fliers in their windows for increased publicity. Be sure to send a press release to the local papers announcing the Grand Opening specials.
Get the store ready ahead to make a good impression.
Most importantly, make sure that the store is clean and in working order well ahead of time. Remember the store will host a larger crowd than normal during a Grand Opening, so don’t waste all of those first impressions with floors covered in cement dust or grimy windows.
Be well staffed.
Schedule all of your attendants for that weekend, even if huge crowds are not expected. Instruct them to personally greet each customer and welcome him or her to the party.
Have plenty of giveaways.
Giveaways are a must at any Grand Opening. Hold a cookout with free hot dogs and soda. Hand out helium balloons to the kids or trinket items emblazoned with your store’s name. Hold a raffle or hand out prizes to customers who fill out a card with their name and address. Use the cards to develop a preliminary mailing list for future direct mail or coupon campaigns and to track the customer base.
Plan some pricing specials.
Pricing specials are far and away the most popular and effective way to draw in customers. Offer an incentive, but resist the temptation to get too generous with the pricing. If the store gives its services away, it may only draw in customers who have no intention of visiting the store after the special. It also may cost more in utilities than the store can afford to lose at this stage of the business. Offering a discount on washing or drying for a set amount of time is an excellent idea, but stick to the time allotted. Remember that the idea is to draw in customers who will come back after having a pleasant experience in the store. If the regular pricing is fair for the services offered, there is no need to be afraid to end the Grand Opening pricing specials.
Planning a grand re-opening.
Even if you have purchased an existing laundry, there is still no reason to avoid a Grand Reopening, especially if there are improvements to the store. Installing more or larger equipment, adding drop-off services or even sprucing up a drab interior are all reasons for the existing customer base to leave a competitor’s laundry for a new one. Let them know about the improvements by advertising a “Grand Reopening.” Use many of the same promotions as a brand-new store, simply emphasizing the “all-new” look and feel of the laundry. Concentrate the advertising on those changes. Something as simple as hanging a banner in the window stating “Brand-New Equipment” will catch the eye of that former customer who lost his/her last dollar in one of the old top loaders. If the previous ownership was lacking in customer service, advertise the store as “Under New Management” and focus on attendant/customer relations during (and after) the Grand Opening.