For many antique dealers, the month of January represents the “after Christmas doldrums.” Customers are scarce, sales are down, and gray winter skies cast a pall over shopping excursions. What January needs is a little “sales sunshine”: an event that’s fun and social and enticing enough to get customers out of their homes and into your store.
Dealer Dicker Day Concept
Kelly and Jeff Rickert, owners of Water Street Vintage Antique Mall in New London, Wisconsin, have just such an event. Their annual Dealer Dicker Day promotion produces “four to five times what we would normally do on that particular Saturday,” according to Kelly. It is, she says, their “biggest single day of sales” excluding grand opening events.
The Dealer Dicker Day (DDD) promotion is not proprietary to Water Street Vintage; other antique malls conduct DDD events as well. But the Rickerts’ promotion is so well done, I want to spend some time discussing some of the event’s fundamentals.
If your mall does something similar, bravo! If not, maybe you can pick up a few pointers from Kelly and Jeff. They have been very generous in sharing their experience.
Their promotional flyer is deceptively simple; it reads “Wheel and deal with the vendors; chili, door prizes.” In truth, pulling off this simple concept is harder than it seems. In my opinion, the key to a successful Dealer Dicker Day isn’t the food, the deals, or the prizes; it’s the people. Here are four keys that make Dealer Dicker Day a success at Water Street Vintage:
1. Dealer Support.
It stands to reason that there can’t be a Dealer Dicker Day unless there are dealers to dicker with. Customers like to engage with antique dealers on a face-to-face, social basis. Online and Big-Box shopping has become so sterile and impersonal that customers long for contact with knowledgeable, personable dealers. Marc Compeau, writing for Forbes Magazine, says: “Make a connection, and then plug in...research shows that consumers are begging for a conversation with a real person more than ever. In a world filled with tweets, status updates and text messages, it is ironic that consumers, particularly young consumers, seek human interaction as part of their shopping experience.”
Kelly reports: “We need extra help on this day, as there is usually a long line to check out; but we are very fortunate to have family members step in and the dealers are always willing to help.” The more dealers you have to help, the more satisfying the event is for customers.
2. Greeting customers at the door.
Kelly says, “I usually greet people at the door and tell them what is going on and that we have chili upstairs.” Again, Marc Compeau affirms the importance of this simple but effective tactic: “Say Hello and Goodbye. Such a small thing, right? The truth is that customers remember the first and last moments of their interaction with you far more than anything that happens in the middle. That means the way you greet and thank each customer is critical. We recently conducted a study of consumers’ buying behavior after manipulating only the way they were greeted. One group was welcomed with a friendly smile the other with a straight face. Not surprisingly, the smile group bought more items and paid more for each one.”
3. Having a Gathering Room
In my January 2011 Behind the Gavel column, I suggested that dealers provide a community
gathering space in their stores. Water Street Vintage recently expanded to provide such a space for their community. Their website reads: “We expanded Saturday, October 11 by opening our second floor. We have an additional 35 booths and a room for rent for classes, meetings, groups.”
The Rickerts put their community room to good use during their DDD event. Kelly elaborates: “We serve free chili upstairs in our Gathering Room for the dealers and customers; when it is gone it is gone. We only do the Dicker Day from 10-2. We serve ice water and usually some of the dealers will bring in desserts, bread, crackers, etc.
So it is just the additional expense of the chili. We usually go through two Nescos full.”
Increasingly, retail executives insist that Community Rooms are a necessity in 21st century merchandising. A recent Interactive Customer Experience Summit in Dallas, Texas, offered a session titled “Your Venue as a Community Gathering Place.” At the session, Paul Blackburn, merchandising vice-president for French cosmetics retailer L’Occitane en Provence, remarked: “It is hard to quantify the benefits of having a community gathering space. But there is no question that people spend more money if they feel they are having a natural experience in a store ... getting customers to play with our products is the most important thing for us."
4. Paying attention to checkout lines.
In 2005, David H. Maister authored a paper for Columbia University titled “The Psychology of Waiting Lines." One of Maister’s foundational points is that “occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time.” The reason, he says, was aptly pointed out by philosopher William James: “Boredom results from being attentive to the passage of time itself.” Another way of putting this is “a watched pot never boils.”
At one time or another, we’ve all experienced the distress of waiting in line too long: at a doctor’s office; an auto repair shop; a restaurant; a grocery checkout; the list is endless. Most antique malls have just one checkout, and a large event like Dealer Dicker Day can quickly create a checkout logjam.
The Rickerts take good care of those in their long checkout line. Again, Kelly clarifies: “We usually hand out candy to the people in line and joke around, they don’t mind waiting.” Maister supports such a tactic: “The activity provided to ‘fill time’ should offer benefit in and of itself.” Humor and sweets certainly take one’s mind off waiting in line.
Antique Malls that don’t offer a Dealer Dicker Day promotion should certainly consider doing so. I can’t think of a more fun way to build your customer base.