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Posted: 2010-08-04 / Author: Therésa Müller, CEO, ZA Group (Pty) Ltd

Need A Cash Injection? Hold A Sale. Here´s How.

The secret to a profitable sale — whether at a brick and mortar shop or a virtual site — is ample preparation, seductive advertising, visually appealing presentation, physical / visual accessibility, reassuring security and a good team of people ready to welcome customers, answer questions and serve.

What to sell

·         Ask all your staff to identify at least one item that doesn´t move, or that there is a lot of, or that was bought at a good price so you can afford to sell it at a discount.

·         Sell everything that doesn´t ordinarily move off the shelves fast. Sell it at cost, if you have to. The idea is to get rid of surplus stock, move stagnant revenues and generate cash.


Joint venture

·         Invite other businesses to join you in the sale. For instance, if you´re selling boats, get businesses that supply boating equipment, navigation gear, refrigeration, outdoor clothing, etc. to join you … the more you have to offer, the bigger the crowd you´ll be able to draw. Share the cost, the labour, the income:

o    Ask for a contribution towards the cost of advertising, security, professional displays, helping hands, etc.

o    Request a commission on total income generated in exchange for making the space available in your store and for organising the sale.

·         If you´re in a shopping mall or on a street with other retailers, liaise with management or with your neighbours to organise a mall, block or pavement sale to attract a crowd of people. Do get municipal permission if you plan to close the street.


When to hold a sale

·         Pick the sale days carefully, bearing in mind the nature of what you´re selling, the location you´re selling from, the audiences being targeted, and the time of the year. For instance: if you are selling boats in a coastal town, it would serve you to schedule the sale over a long weekend or during school holidays to catch all the inland holidaymakers in addition to your regular local audiences. If you are selling jewellery, it may be worth your while to schedule your sale just before and on Valentine´s Day.

·         Don´t do a long, drawn-out sale. It holds no urgency for customers to make the effort to come. Do a weekend or a week, maximum. Remember: fear of losing out on a good deal is a huge motivator for people.


Advertise your sale

·         Use a variety of methods to advertise the event to guarantee sufficient foot-traffic on the days of the sale.

·         Take out as large an ad as you can afford (a full page, if you can) in a daily paper to advertise the event. If you’re having a Friday-Saturday sale, you need to advertise (at the very least) on Thursday and Friday. If you´re having a Saturday-Sunday sale, you need to advertise (at the very least) on Friday and Saturday.

·         Advertise your sale as close to the planned sale date in any available weekly / monthly community / neighbourhood publications. To make sure the event is remembered, ask people to cut out the ad, save it and bring it in during the sale in order to qualify for an additional discount.

·         If you have the budget and if your audience is large enough to justify the expense, negotiate some radio slots for the sale.

·         Place large printed posters in places where they will be noticed by passers-by in the neighbourhood, in your shopping centre and in and around your store the week before the sale. Do get relevant permissions before doing so.

·         Print one-page flyers to advertise the sale. Get municipal permission to distribute these at traffic intersections and management permission to distribute these at local shopping centres.

·         Pin the flyers up on community bulletin boards at grocery stores, laundromats, coffee shops and community centres.

·         Make use of free resources, such as free classifieds and events listings published by community newspapers.

·         Look for free online listing space on the Internet.

·         Send a mass SMS campaign, as well as a mass email campaign to your entire database of contacts. If you are joint-venturing with other businesses, combine your databases for maximum impact.



·         Make sure you answer all the who-what-where-when-why-how questions in all your communications, starting with the why, i.e.: "Here´s why you cannot afford to miss this sale … "

·         Include the days and times of the sale, where the sale is going to be held, directions if necessary, and an indication of the kind of bargains people are likely to find, making sure to promote items that you know will please the crowd.

·         Make all your communications distinctive and make them all the same so that the effect builds as people see the same communication in different media and in different settings.


Build your database

·         Use the sale days to build your database of potential customers to communicate with every time you have a sale. Run a daily lucky draw. Require people to leave their name, cell phone number and email address in order to qualify for the draw. Make the prizes something truly exciting and worthwhile. Use the draw as another opportunity to create buzz and get media attention.



·         Have a genuine sale, with genuinely cut prices. The resultant word of mouth advertising and increased foot-traffic will more than make up for the reduced profit margins.

·         Put price tags on everything. Put two prices on each price tag, e.g.: "Was R145 Now R99."

·         If you have a lot of small items, group merchandise by price on display areas or tables marked "Everything R20" or "Everything R100". It saves time and attracts shoppers.

·         Offer further discounts for purchases over a certain amount. Communicate this on banners or posters throughout the sale area.

·         Everyone loves a BOGO: a "Buy One Get One Free". Bundle things that go together, i.e. bracelet with a necklace, at a price that is lower than if the customer had to buy the items singly. Do make sure that you cover your cost!

·         Announce a 50% price-drop during the last hour of the sale to make sure everything moves.


Attractive displays

·         Have some crowd-pleasers up front to entice people into your store. Here you have to know your audience and what would interest and excite them.

·         Beyond the crowd-pleasers, have a table with items at a ridiculously low price, i.e. R10 per item to pull people in and encourage further browsing.

·         Include signage with a brief description of goods with each display.

·         Remember: People seldom buy what they can´t see. If necessary, place a sample item on top of its packaging in order to make it visible.

·         Displays tend to degenerate during sales as people rummage through merchandise looking for the bargain that suits them. Train your staff to keep displays neat, tidy and visually attractive throughout the sale.


A well-trained sales-force

·         Make sure there are enough people to serve customers, tidy displays and to monitor the crowd during the sale. If necessary, use relay teams.

·         Take the time to train your staff to be active sellers, knowledgeable about what is on sale and friendly and welcoming towards customers.

·         Generate a sense of fun and anticipation: offer helpers a discount on the sale goods and lunch on the house … just to say thank you.



·         Make use of every available opportunity to keep your brand visible:

o    Dress all staff in branded T-shirts or bibs promoting the sale — with the pay-off line clearly visible.

o    Have you logo on all price tags and labels.

o    Proudly display your logo and pay-off line on all posters, banners and displays.


Get free publicity for being community-minded

·         Offer to donate half of the proceeds of the sale towards a community cause or a local charity. Have a giant cheque ready to hand over to a representative at the end of the last day of the sale. Make sure the media is invited to cover this part of the event. This will ensure that your sale does more than just move stock and generate immediate cash … it will turn your event into an opportunity to generate goodwill and increased visibility for your business.

·         Invite a local charity to do a bake and beverage sale at your sale. While this may not attract buyers, it will attract people … and people tend to attract people. Having things to eat and drink will encourage some to stick around and buy more. Besides, it gives you another angle for media coverage.


Other considerations

·         If you´re doing a sidewalk sale with goods out in the open, do check the long-range weather forecast to make sure you´re not rained out. Be prepared, anyway, to move your merchandise into a sheltered area in case of rain.

·         Check with your local municipality if you need a permit to put up posters or to hold the sale. Do this before you progress too far with your planning.

·         Get permission from your centre management and make sure that you are aware of all restrictions imposed by them.

·         Make plenty of parking available, with people to direct traffic if necessary.

·         Sales attract all kinds of people, including shoplifters. Make sure that you have qualified security people on your team to keep an eye on customers and to look after cars.

·         Be a good community member and take down your signs immediately after the sale.

·         Then go count the cash.

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