We called it our Walmart minute: Clients and guests queued up in the December cold, eagerly waiting for our doors to open.
The line that snaked around the block for 45 minutes was our first clue that the evening open house would be our biggest yet--Akari’s equivalent of the Black Friday rush.
We’d spent months planning the annual event; our 25th anniversary celebration was the grandest to date with nearly 500 guests, including the mayor, city councilors and press.
For many years, Akari’s open house has become a highlight of the season in Portland – neighboring stores and food establishments all plan events for the special evening. It’s a win for the customers, the neighborhood,our city and us. And this year, both sales and attendance were up 25 percent over last year!
The evening’s circus theme was limited only by our imaginations. Magicians, aerialists, mimes, jugglers, an animal menagerie and a jazz band entertained the crowd.
Our staff created a ticket booth and carnival games with coveted prizes from all aspects of the business – haircuts, color, nails, day spa and medispa. Food was all about fun: cotton candy, popcorn, candy, hot dogs and sliders.
Representatives from our product lines were on hand to greet clients while our staff offered quick hair styling, makeup touch-ups, nail polishes and massages. We handed out hundreds of gift bags filled with samples and promotional materials.
A week later, emails, texts and calls are still coming in to thank and congratulate us on a successful event.
So how did we do it? Planning. Our management staff spent at least six months prior to the evening brainstorming and visualizing how the pieces would come together. They met weekly to iron out details and created a detailed chart of what every staff member would do before, during and after the three-hour event.
Here are our tips for planning a Black Friday-style event:
Practice small. Start by practicing smaller events in conjunction with vendors to get your team and customers excited.
Check Your Dates. Make sure your date avoid conflicts with other major events.
Plan Around Your Theme. Let it guide your promotions, gifts, rewards, guest artists, etc. Make sure to plan activities that entertain guests while they shop. This year, our deal of the night was a Buy one product, get half off another.
Involve Your Staff. Listen to their ideas, concerns about potential pitfalls and their visions for a dress code that will reflect the evening’s theme. Divide and delegate responsibilities among the team.
Market the Event. Place posters around your store three months prior to the event. Have your staff talk up the event with customers and hand out invitations. Mail invitations to your top customers and VIP guests, and send a press release to the local media. Send an email blast to all customers and promote the event on social media two weeks out, then repeat a week later.
Focus on the Details. Organize the event’s layout, work on props, sets, talent, music and beverages. Remind your vendors you need their help and presence. Confirm all talent a month prior to the event.
Watch the Clock. Close your doors and set up early the day of the event. Triple the time you think you’ll need for last-minute problems; keep your team united and customers happy; look for ways to raise the bar for your next event.
Next Steps. Once you pull off a successful event, don't rest on your laurels. Start planning the next one!
Allan Labos has more than 30 years of beauty and style experience across the country and in Europe. He began his career under the tutelage of Vidal Sassoon in London and opened and managed Sassoon salons and schools in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. For the past 25 years he has owned and operated Akari, a 20,000-square-foot business in Portland, Maine. Akari offers hair, nail and spa services and also includes a boutique, fitness center and medical spa.