Proven Practices to Multiply Your Male Customer Base
Men typically shy away from anything pink, frilly or covered in sparkles so it’s only natural that they would have an aversion to lingerie stores. But specialty boutiques don’t have to give up half of their potential client base to online shopping just yet. More and more men are stepping into the stores to make intimate apparel purchases for their wives and girlfriends. Here’s a surefire plan of attack for attracting the attention of male customers.
Men may never think to come into your store on their own so you’ve got to help point them in the right direction. Take advantage of male oriented advertising outlets where you can easily catch their eye. According to retail expert and president of All Write Ink, Deborah Brown, social media is the easiest—and cheapest—place to start your efforts. “Men forty and under are active in social media outlets such as Twitter,” she says. “Use this to build a community, share a coupon and post special offers. Use these social media tools for free to get the word out and get your message virally spreading.”
You should also reach out to potential male customers through your print advertising. Incorporate items that are most popular among male customers in the design, the same way that Jennifer Carroll, owner of Bellefleur in Seattle, WA, and author of “Underneath It All, A Girl’s Guide to Buying, Wearing and Loving Lingerie” does. “We advertise in the local weekly paper during the holiday season,” she says. “Typically it is a very sexy picture with a message about having a sexy holiday.”
Carroll also helps women encourage their significant others to shop at Bellefleur by signing them up for a size registry. “They can register any brand or style preference with us, in addition to their sizes,” she says. “They can then send their men in to buy them gifts at any time during the year.” Brown seconds this method, stating that a size registry will avoid awkward situations that may arise for male shoppers. It’s also a great tool for attracting more female customers as well.
Independent retailers should also look into cross promoting their stores with nearby mens related businesses. Brown suggests networking within the three-mile radius that surrounds your store. “Sponsor a men’s softball team,” she suggests, “Jump on board with a community charity event or form a strategic alliance with the closest men’s apparel retailer.” These businesses can help you promote your store to their core customers and your service to them will, in turn, help their efforts.
Make Men Comfortable
Once you’ve caught their attention, make men feel right at home when they shop in your store. You may have already trained your staff to be attentive to every customer that enters, but remind them that male shoppers need a bit more assistance. “Put yourself in a man’s shoes and be aware of the fact that he is going to be uncomfortable in that shopping experience,” says Brown. “Help him by understanding him.”
“Put yourself in a man’s shoes and be aware of the fact that he is going to be uncomfortable in that shopping experience,” says Brown. “Help him by understanding him.”
Greet male customer right away. “Don’t let them flounder at the door,” says Brown. She advises asking them a few questions and bringing them to the less fearful part of the store first. Unlike your female customer, men should not be left alone. Often they won’t know the correct size of the woman they are shopping for, so offer suggestions on items available in small, medium and large sizes or items that can be returned if the fit is incorrect.
Jessica Hlavac embraces men in her Silver Lake, CA-based store, Panty Raid, whether they are shopping for lingerie or not. She noticed that often men were accompanying her female customers and wanted to make their experience in her store more enjoyable so she created the boyfriend corner. Situated in the middle of the store, the boyfriend corner consists of a Playstation and flat screen TV, magazine and a few books. “Men, women and children use it but its primary function is to let men accompanying their partners relax and not get bored while their wife or girlfriend is shopping,” she says.
Another way to make men feel welcome in your store is to organize an event just for them. According to Brown, who is also the author of “Planning Successful Retail Selling Events,” men will feel less uncomfortable shopping for intimate apparel if they are with friends. A fancy spread of cigars, beer and lingerie models help too.
Begin work on a men’s night eight weeks prior for the best results, says Brown. Contact your vendors right away and ask them for special deals on budget or trunk merchandise that you can put on sale for deep discounts. This will up your inventory for the big event and boost your margins. Brown suggests retailers also contact local businesses such as spas and wine stores to contribute raffle prizes. She suggests raffling off a couples massage or gift certificate to a local wine bar. “Think about what an evening looks like that leads up to lingerie and then network with those businesses,” she says.
You’ll also need to leave enough time to market your event. “Don’t forget about your existing customers. They are a great referral,” says Brown. “They know where you’re located and that you offer a great quality. Talk about the event with your female customers. They will tell their men.”
The day of your event Brown suggests driving traffic with balloons outside your store. Placing living models in your window display is another way to draw in traffic from the street. “Add something that’s normally not there to catch people’s attention,” she says. Then sit back, relax, and watch as the opposite sex makes a dent in your bottom line.
More Expert Advice: Also read Libby’s article on Visual Merchandising advice “Four Merchandising Tricks You Can Put to Use Today“