Two years ago, I got the bright idea that we should try to sell more guitars during the holiday season. Naturally, my staff looked at me and said, "Good luck." In 2009, we saw our acoustic guitar pack sales drop in half, and electric packs were only 10 percent of the business they used to be.
We could have focused on reversing this trend, but I opted for a different strategy. Instead of focusing on entry-level guitar packs, I wanted to bump up customers to the next price point and move some sweet-sounded axes off my wall. So, I devised a three-step approach for our holiday campaign.
1. Remerchandise for better visibility. The first move was simple: Switch up the floor to accentuate individual guitars, as opposed to the awesome stacks of prepackaged acoustics and electrics that we usually featured during the holidays. We still kept the packs out but moved them lower to the floor and under the eye-catching individual guitars, which now hung perfectly at eye level. We also created a lower rung of individual guitars that hung at eye level for people sitting on stools.
2. Offer free accessories. We took case candy to a new level by giving customers a free case or gig bag with guitar purchases over a certain price. These were much stronger cases than those that came with guitar packs. Of course, we threw in free strings, picks and sometimes a strap to make the musician complete, but we, the retailer, didn't get the short end of the stick. Customers ended up purchasing nicer guitars, and we moved much higher-ticket items than usual.
3. Throw in limited rebates. On top of that, customers received rebates. We used a tiered structure: The bigger the purchase, the higher the rebate. It was only redeemable during the first quarter of the following year, which helped drive traffic into our store during the slow period.
Now, here's where the numbers get scary. After trying this strategy, our individual acoustic sales rose by more than 300 percent. Plus, we doubled our volume of individual electric guitars sold. This created a financial boom in our combo department.
My accountant husband always says the numbers don’t lie, but I've found that some people are more visual learners. So, I asked my staff to make a line graph of our margin and gross sales of guitars over the past four years. Funny enough, lines shooting straight up don’t lie either.