Articles for Retailers - Kizer and Bender


In-Store Event Planning 101

Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender 

To be a successful today, you have to do more than just sell “stuff” – you need experiences that connect with the customers’ hearts and minds as well as their wallets. You can exist by running an occasional sale or you can steadily grow sales through in-store events and promotions.

Plan for both Major and Minor events . You need to host one major in-store event and one to two minor events each month. A major event is one that builds traffic and packs your store with customers. A minor event might be a Saturday packed with product demos.

Answer the following questions for each event you choose: 
  1. Will this event attract my current customers? 
  2. Will it attract new customers to the store? 
  3. What will you to entice new customers return? 
  4. What will this event do for your store’s reputation? 
  5. Can your staff handle the increased traffic?
A number of things including choosing dates, assigning tasks, and scheduling deadlines have to happen to make your event a success. You’ll want to create a Master Plan for each event that details who will be in charge of each task, what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done.

Three to Four Months Before
  • Send letters to vendors requesting merchandise for prizes and giveaways. Ask of they’ll help with demos and classes. Drop us an email and we’ll send you our vendor solicitation letter templates you can easily customize.
  • If you’re short on staff, ask vendors, local clubs, and your best customers if they’d like to help out on event day.
  • Create your ad campaign, determining which avenues you will use. Think both traditional and digital medias.
  • Do an order review to determine if there are special products or additional items you need to order for the event.
  • Entertainment is optional. If you want it, schedule it now.
Two Months Before
  • From this point on, meet with key staffers each week to make sure that everyone is on schedule.
  • Follow up with vendors, instructors and demonstrators. Confirm date and time, and arrange for any special needs (electrical, merchandise, etc.)
  • Follow up with your entertainment, confirm the date and arrange for any special needs (risers, electrical outlets, etc.)
  • If you are using a caterer, now is the time to schedule the delivery and servers. If you plan to serve any kind of food, play it safe and always use a caterer. Home baked goods or food from home is never a good idea. If someone gets sick you are liable.
One Month Before     
  • Schedule additional ads, including ads on Facebook.
  • Draw a schematic of your sales floor, noting where to set the refreshments, demonstration areas, entertainment, etc.  
  • If this is an invitation only event, it’s time to create your invitations.
  • Create an event on Facebook.
Two Weeks Before
  • Time to kick things into high gear! Meet with key personnel to review all aspects of the event and to make sure everything is on schedule. If things aren’t progressing as planned, you still have time to make changes.
  • Your invitations should be printed and ready to go – it’s time to mail them. It’s also time to begin distributing bag stuffers.
  • Start talking about the event on social medias. Run your first Facebook ad.
One Week Before
  • Build a buzz with a press release announcing your event. Cover all local media outlets.    
  • Prepare a list of in-store specials (e.g., grand-prize drawing at 7:00 p.m., demo #1 at 7:15 p.m.).     
  • Verify that you have all the product and supplies your vendors and instructors will need for demos.  
  • Verify the entertainment is ready to roll, the second you unlock the door.
  • Double check your refreshment order. It’s better to have too much food than to run out during your event.
  • Reset your windows, displays and other decor for the event. Refresh the impulse items on the cash wrap.
The Day Before
  • Recheck your Master Plan to ensure that all tasks have been completed.
  • Finalize your floor plan.
  • Hang signing and place all decorations before you leave for the night – get the big stuff ready so that tomorrow all you have to worry about are last-minute touch-ups.
Show Time!   
  • Schedule a pre-opening breakfast meeting with staff to review everything that will take place during the day.
  • Distribute copies of the in-store specials, demos, and drawings to staff and participating vendors. Place copies at the cash wrap and service areas.
  • Greet your guests at the door. Invite everyone sign a guest book – this will ensure you have names, addresses, emails, etc. for future events.
After Your Event      
  • Schedule a review meeting, noting what went well, what didn’t, and what you will want to incorporate in your next event.
  • Record the total sales, customer count, types of advertising, social medias, number of associates, vendors, even the weather. Keep this on file to review if you make this an annual event.
  • Send a personal thank-you letter to the vendors, instructors, customers, etc. who helped out.
The time you spend planning your in-store events is as important as the event itself – it’s probably more important. It takes creativity and dedication and sometimes sheer will power, but it’s always worth the effort! 

Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, retail strategists, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail market place. KIZER & BENDER’s observations are widely featured in national newspapers, national and international industry and consumer publications, and on radio and television programs across the U.S. You can learn more at