5 Ideas for Making Your New Store Opening a Must-See Event

With a lot of planning and a reasonable budget, you can make your next grand opening one for the record books.

One of my first clients was a classic retail marketer.  He was the consummate showman who found ways to make every store opening or remodel a true event.  And, he designed his advertising and marketing programs around a simple, motivational mantra – “Go big, or go home!”

Whenever I work with retail clients to launch a new brand or store, I can’t help but look for the really unique, big idea that will draw crowds and get consumers to take notice.  Sure, budgets (or lack thereof) sometimes prevent us from going as far as we might like with a particular concept.  But, all great openings start with a great idea.

Here are a few thought starters for your next grand opening event.

1.  Marketing Stunt5 More Ideas for Making Your New Store Opening a Must-See Event 1

You may know them as “publicity stunts.”  But, I prefer to acknowledge the goal is still to market your new store.  Offsetters is a Canadian organization that advises companies and individuals about offsetting carbon emissions.  In 2008, they set out to call attention to the issue of global warming.  They hung life rafts from the sides of buildings in Vancouver, installed lifeguard stations in city parks (blocks from the nearest water) and secured life jackets under bus benches.  All materials were printed with the message, “Stop Global Warming.”

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Virgin Mobile successfully implemented a “stunt” strategy when they opened their new concept store in Braamfontein, South Africa, in 2013.  They set a new Guinness World Record for cramming 25 people in a British Mini Cooper.  As an extra branding touch, the car was appropriately adorned with the Virgin Mobile logo and colors.  They captured it all on video and posted it to YouTube to get the most mileage out of their efforts –pun intended.

Did you know that Guinness World Records actually has a solutions team that will work with you to help determine ways to incorporate a record-setting event (or attempt) into your grand opening strategy?  They have even established a roadshow that can be hired to take any opening to a fun, new level.

2.  Host or Co-Sponsor a Concert

Whether it’s set in a city park or in your parking lot, a concert can be a great way to attract a huge crowd and begin to promote your brand and your new store.  You can either help sponsor an existing concert or, if you’re feeling adventurous, host your own.  If you’re doing the planning, you may want to consider hiring a popular local or regional band to headline your event.  Or, if nostalgia is appropriate to your brand (or your customers), why not consider tapping into the 1980’s?  In addition to a myriad of tribute bands that have sprung up in recent years, it may actually be affordable to hire an original band 80’s group for your event – as long as you’re not looking for The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith.

There are lots of resources – talent agencies, promoters, event planners – to help you make a concert a reality.  Just be sure you have all of the necessary permits and insurance in place as you plan the event.

3.  Invite a Celebrity

Never underestimate the power of a celebrity to attract a crowd.  Now, I use the term “celebrity” in its most general sense.  If your grand opening budget is large enough to support the appearance of “A list” actors or actresses, by all means, go for it!  But, for the rest of you, don’t sell yourself short.  If you offer clothing, how about considering an up-and-coming designer who’s featured prominently in your store?  Or, is there a local sports team (players and/or coaches) that could make an appearance?

Don’t forget to tap into your vendors for “celebrity” possibilities.  They may actually be able to help cover some of the costs associated with bringing someone to your event.  You never know when your grand opening will fit perfectly into the travel schedule of a celebrity who has already been hired by one of your suppliers to be their spokesperson.   

4.  Host a Masquerade Ball

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I know what you’re thinking…”this sounds a little over the top.”  But, hear me out.  And, feel free to think of this as a “Halloween Costume Party” (without the holiday).  Did you know that Americans spend more on Halloween than any other holiday except Christmas?  It’s true.  In fact, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), we spent an estimated $2.6 billion in 2013 on costumes for kids, adults and pets.  So, why not help your customers amortize those costume costs?

Still not sure about whether or not a “dress up” event will appeal?  Well, is Generation Y an important part of your customer base?  A 2013 survey by social video chat provider ooVoo found that over 50% of Millennials cited Halloween as their favorite holiday.  Think about it.  And, if it’s right for your store, don’t be afraid to pursue it.

5.  Incorporate a Worthy Cause

Is there a charity that is particularly relevant to your brand, your store or the community in which you’re located?  Look for ways to build a natural relationship between your customer, your grand opening and a great cause.

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In 2010, Scandinavian home furnishings retailer IKEA placed 30 red bookcases (filled with thousands of books) on the sands of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.  For just one day, beach goers were encouraged to swap one of their own books for one from the shelves or make a monetary donation, with proceeds going to The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.  The connection?  It was the 30th anniversary of IKEA’s most popular bookshelf, the BILLY.

This kind of strategy can work on several levels – as long as it’s executed correctly and sincerely.  Some campaigns, like IKEA’s, actually blend the notion of supporting a worthy cause with the idea of a marketing stunt.

Admittedly, some of these ideas may be cost-prohibitive for your grand opening budget.  If so, factor those cost constraints into your planning process.  As with any good brainstorming process, one idea can (and usually should) lead to another.  So, an initial “over-the-top” idea may ultimately provide the spark for the ideal event for your store – and your budget.

As you start planning, remember that a great event will almost always be a more effective marketing tool if it somehow relates to your brand, your culture or your store.  And, don’t be afraid to think big!

So, what’s in store for your next grand opening event?

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Scott Kuhn

About Scott Kuhn

Scott is CEO of Sheehy, a regional advertising, marketing and media agency. He has been helping companies plan and execute store grand openings and remodels for more than 20 years.

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