What I have for you today is the easiest event with the greatest ROI (Return on Investment), that you’ve ever heard of. It’s been hugely successful. When I first heard about it, I thought, I can’t wait to share it with you and the continued success of it is amazing! I want to introduce you to Amy and Courtney from WaterMark Corners. Amy please tell us all about your store and then please introduce Courtney!
Hi Cathy and hi everyone! I own WaterMark Corners. We are a gift and stationary store in Moline, IL. We’re a part of the quad cities. We specialize in items that are innovative, intriguing, and inspiring. So we have all kinds of unique things that we’ve hand picked to carry in our store, everything from children’s to gourmet. And then last October, we opened a bar in our store. So now we have a curated collection of wines and spirits and cocktails. And so we have this whole sip and shop atmosphere, which is a lot of fun.
And this is my right hand gal that I couldn’t do this without, this is Courtney and she’s been our store manager for a few years now.
So Courtney, how did you end up at WaterMark Corners?
It was purely by retail accident! I had made a decision that I was never going back into retail and I had to buy a gift for a friend’s 5-year old daughter. And I walked into WaterMark Corners because that’s the place where my mother got me, my favorite stocking stuffers, for 20 years.
And I walked into this store and it reminded me of why I love retail, because the first thing I walked into was laughter. I heard laughter throughout the store and it wasn’t associates. It was customers with associates. And I thought, this is what a store should feel like. I should feel like I’m having fun. I’m not even in on what they’re talking about but this is the kind of place I want to be. So I went home, looked them up on Facebook and I saw they needed a part-time store manager, and I was like, okay, I think I can do that. Literally the next day Amy called me, it was a match made in retail heaven.
So tell us about this amazing event!
I’ll give a little preface and then let Courtney take it away because she came up with this idea. At the beginning of the year, every January, Cathy takes her clients through a whole process to plan the year. And through that, you come up with your goals for the year. And so I had worked on the goals, and then we did a manager’s retreat with Courtney and my mother and our assistant manager.
We went through the goals, left the retreat and came back to the store, and then Courtney took that and said, okay, well here’s what Amy has as our goal. And it was a sales goal that we wanted to reach. And she said, what does that break down to? How many new customers, how many more transactions per day? How much do we have to increase each transaction for the customers we already have?
And out of that came this brilliant idea! I thought that was a brilliant way to come up with an event. It wasn’t just, oh, we need an event. It was because we need to hit specific goals.
I’ve been in retail long enough that I know that there are generally two problems: You need more people to walk through your door and you need those people to spend more money. And if you can solve those two things, you have it down. So thinking about these goals, I thought, well, how do I get more people? But the people who already love us, how do I get them to spend more money?
What I know is that people love a party and what does everybody have? They all have birthdays. And we collect that information in our loyalty program. We know when their birthdays are so after some back and forth brainstorming we decided that we’re going to hold a birthday party on the last Saturday of every single month for our loyalty club members.
So if you’re born in July on the last Saturday of July, you come into WaterMark Corners all day and we are celebrating your birthday! But not only that, we want to share with you a discount. So we give a percentage off a 15% discount throughout the store. We have a selfie station. We give you cupcakes. We give all these really fun perks, five free pieces of personalized stationery printed while they’re there.
But the best perk – because who wants to celebrate their birthday party alone? Nobody. So we ask our loyal clients who already love us and know us, to bring a friend. And it has been incredible because most of the friends that they’re bringing have not been here or they haven’t been here in a long time and they get the same perks as their birthday girl.
So it’s balloons, sparkly tablecloths, people walk into our doors and they go: “It’s my birthday!!” And we all cheer and hype up our music. It is a party atmosphere from 10AM to when we close at 6PM and is the easiest, most fun! We didn’t staff any differently. It’s amazing what balloons, a cupcake and a different attitude will do.
And it is doubling Saturdays! Every last Saturday of the month, I can guarantee we will do more than we did the previous three Saturdays, every single one,
I’ll even one up you there. So we came up with the idea in January and it was too close to do it in January. So we started it at the end of February and we made it for all January and February birthdays that Saturday. And you know that retail for gifts, January is dead and February isn’t a whole lot better. That day we did 10 times the business we had done the Saturday before.
10 times!! That Saturday was our biggest sales day since before Christmas. So then we thought, okay, well that’s two months added together. What will the March event be like?
We did slightly more. And then April was even bigger than that.
Wow. You guys!
It’s been fun. And the atmosphere that February day at one point, every seat in our bar was full – in the afternoon, and people were just laughing and talking. And what I found is they plan it. And then we say, well, now you need to find a friend whose birthday is every month so that you can come every month with them and plan it strategically, or your husband.
And I’ll also add one other thing. So it did what we wanted it to do. It made the people who love us come in and spend extra money, even if they had already seen us that month. But the other thing that it did is every single last Saturday of the month, we have the highest number of new customers that join our loyalty program, which is the point!
In that one day I can get seven new people, Generally that’s our average to join our loyalty program. Normally that takes us a week to do, and it’s the easiest sell on the planet. And now I have a new gal who’s gonna bring a new friend on her birthday.
My last Saturday of the month is first time customers joining our loyalty program. And that is the environment I want them to explore WaterMark in for the first time. The Birthday Saturday Is their idea of WaterMark
Right? It’s like you recreated the same experience you had when you first walked through the doors of WaterMark. That’s really what you did!
And then you just rinse and repeat. We have a local bakery that I work with and she knows that every last Saturday we’re on her calendar. She created little mini cupcakes and cake pops with our brand colors. So we know we’ll get them Friday afternoon before the event. Courtney orders balloons, and then we ordered the sparkly tablecloth and the photo booth set up – which was all pretty straightforward and easy. And then we just repeat it.
Now this month, we’re gonna do a Hawaiian theme, a luau. So we’re changing up the theme a little bit, moving forward have fun with it! September is our birthday month, this will be our 23rd anniversary. And the weekend of our birthday party, our city is celebrating the 150th anniversary of our city. So there’s going to be a big street festival, AND one of our buildings also has the same birthday. So we’re going to do a big blowout birthday on that Saturday and celebrate our store and our city and everyone who has birthdays.
In October the last Saturday is right before Halloween. So we’re going to do a Halloween themed party. In November because the last Saturday happens to be Small Business Saturday. So think about Small Business Saturday, then filling it with people celebrating birthdays and how joyous that’s going to be!
And then the one I’m most excited about is the last Saturday of December which is New Year’s Eve this year. So we’re going to have a New Year’s Eve party. We’re normally only open till 2PM on New Year’s Eve. But this year we’re going to be open until 4PM and do a big New Year’s Eve celebration and it’s going to be fun. We’ll celebrate birthdays and New Year’s with champagne and extra treats.
So once it’s a rinse and repeat you can have fun with it and change it up.
So fun! Oh my gosh, how incredible! And just like you said, it’s so easy to do because you already had what you needed.
One last question, and I love asking this question of my retail heroes – that’s really what you guys are. It’s incredible because you’re in there every single day changing people’s lives. It’s so powerful what you do. And there’s always such nuggets and pearls of wisdom in this question: What do you know now that you wish you knew the day you opened your store Amy?
That there were retail coaches like you, I had no idea when we opened in 1999, that such a thing existed. When we started with you in 2011 considering what we had learned in 11 years and where we had taken our business, I can’t even imagine where we would be if we’d had you from the beginning, because of the many mistakes we made. You just don’t know what you don’t know when you’re trying to do it on your own.
Back in 1999 was the birth of the internet. And so there weren’t the resources available that everyone has now, we didn’t have YouTube videos, and Facebook lives with coaches sharing their knowledge and all of that. I can’t imagine where our business would be if we’d started with a coach like you from day one.
I mean, how many years did it take us to get our inventory and our Open to Buy plan in line? And just you coaching us and learning these things that you just don’t know? You know, most retailers get into business, not because they’re great at business and they’re great at retail already. It’s because they have a passion for what they’re going to sell. I came from a family that has owned businesses and there are still things that you don’t know.
So that’s the biggest thing. I wish that we’d had a coach from day one. It would’ve saved us a lot of money through the years, the financial stability would’ve been much stronger from the beginning. Had we had a coach like you from the beginning.
I really appreciate that. And I’m so passionate about that myself, because I know that the same thing is true in my own business. If I had had a coach earlier in my retail store as well as in my consulting business, I know it would’ve made a difference too. So I get that entirely, it makes such a big difference. Thank you so much for sharing that.
Courtney, how about you? After working in retail all this time? What do you wish you’d known in the beginning?
Retaining knowledge for yourself is not the goal, because knowledge hogs, when they don’t share their knowledge, they’re the answer person. They’re the one doing everything, right? Sharing knowledge creates a team of people, who will think like you, act like you, speak like you, or just take that knowledge and put their spin on it.
And honestly, that also describes your relationship with Amy, because that is exactly what Amy has given you. She’s not hogging all the opinions, she’s not thinking she knows best about everything, she’s willing to let you try.
One little quick side note to those watching or reading, is that you should for sure go and find WaterMark Corners on Facebook. Their Facebook lives are amazing. They do great Facebook lives together, the way they play off of each other is amazing!
Yes, our weekly lives are every Saturday at 3PM and we mix it up. Usually it’s Courtney and myself, but sometimes it’s my mother, Barb and me. And sometimes there are four of us. I hear the biggest complaint from my father, our big boss, he says that we giggle too much! I said, dad, you’re not our target audience, I’m afraid!
Thank you so very much for being here, I’ll share your links below!