Crafting Creative Store Promotions

(Photo: © sdecoret/Depositphotos)

You are here

Crafting Creative Store Promotions (Part 2)

Pointers from Paulie B: Taking a ‘loss’ to lead customers to your front door

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wouldn’t it be great if there was one easy promotion that would bring in as many customers as you wanted?

But there are all kinds of people out there with all kinds of needs, so one promotion alone won’t do it. It’s best to create a variety of promos and switch them up from time to time.

Lots of promotions will get folks in the door but how do you get them to come back? If you want to retain as many of the “promo people” as possible, you really need to make your mat stand out from your competitors. You need to have an awesome mat.

It’ll generate good word of mouth, plus positive reviews online, and your business will grow automatically. But what if you can’t make your mat as awesome as it can be? Then you have to get a little creative.


Large retailers have been using loss leaders for decades. They load up on a popular item and sell it at a price so low that it brings people in, while hoping that customers also buy other items with higher markups while they’re there.

The best loss leader I ever used was putting my smallest group of washers on sale for a low price, but cold water only and with one rinse instead of two. I made every double loader $1.50 when the regular double loaders cost $2.

Not a huge discount but cheaper than my competitors, and I discovered many customers chose a cold-water wash just to save 50 cents! Most of them would also use the big washers or the hot-water machines as well, but it was the $1.50 promo that drew them in.

If your sale washers are located in the back of your mat, so much the better. Customers will have to pass up more desirable machines to get to the specially priced ones, possibly choosing the higher-priced washers along the way.


Paper Whites — They are small bulb plants, similar to daffodils, aka Narcissus. One day, I discovered a bag of Narcissus bulbs at home. Nobody wanted them so I brought them in to one of my mats.

I filled the bottom of a nice, clear glass bowl (a deep serving tray can do) with white marble rocks, filled the bowl with water, and placed about seven bulbs on top of the small rocks. As time passed, the plants would take root and grow!

The display initiated a lot of friendly conversations. Each week, customers would come in to see their progress. They were beautiful, interesting and uplifting, and customers liked seeing them, especially since it was mid-winter at the time. Remember, promotion isn’t always about dollars and cents. People like to dwell where they feel good.

The “Surprise” Free Wash — If you want to create excitement and get people talking about your mat, introduce the “surprise” free wash. I learned of this idea decades ago when I read about a mat out west doing it.

Back in those days, the machines all used coin slides. The owner wired a switch behind every coin slide in this store, all leading to a carnival-like metal control box that had chaser lights, a bell, and a flashing “FREE WASH” sign. Randomly, his control box would ring and flash if a lucky customer pushed in the right coin slide, just as if he they hit a jackpot on a casino slot machine.

I didn’t have the level of expertise to build a contraption like that, so I did something similar, albeit not as exciting. I bought “Free Wash” stickers and stuck them on our single-use vended laundry products when I loaded the vending machine. I made up an attractive sign that said a free wash would be randomly marked on the vended boxes, and the customer could turn in the winning box for their free wash (tip: keep the stickers when handed in so they can’t be reused). This promo improved my vended sales plus created a little buzz of excitement.

In Tuesday’s conclusion: Creating the path of least resistance, and promoting the promotion

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].