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Ladies Only

For a retailer to prevent over half its usual customer base from crossing its threshhold would appear to be a bonkers idea, but that’s what one mobile phone chain did last month. To celebrate the launch of a new pink version of the Sony Ericsson C905, Phones 4U made its shops women-only for the day.

This was in response to research conducted by the retailer which found that 46% of women wanted a less male-centric and less intimidating shopping experience. I obviously don’t know how successful it was in terms of sales, but the promotion did result in more media coverage than your average ‘retailer has new colour item in stock’ piece would get.

Which got me wondering whether adult stores could steal the idea, not to pick up local media coverage (though that would be nice) but to similarly attract people who might not normally venture into the shop. I’m not suggesting banning men for a whole day – though there are adult boutiques that are women-only – but just for an evening.

With a bit of effort, holding a Ladies Night could bring in sales that the retailer would never have got normally and also add more people to its regular customer base. It would be a bit of fun too. Stick the soundtrack to Mamma Mia on, lay on plenty of wine and nibbles, have a confident saleswoman showcasing a selection of appropriate products and get the party started…

If you don’t have a female member of staff who would be comfortable doing this, it might be worth tapping up one of your local Ann Summers party planners and offering to give her a percentage of everything that gets sold that night. Actually there’s probably some clause in her contract that prevents her freelancing, but she’s still worth talking to as she might be able to recommend someone. Whoever presents, they will obviously need to be well trained in the features of the products they are selling.

Ideally there will be a reason for the night, such as the launch of an exciting new product range, but it could also be just to promote a certain brand or items that are only available from you. Ask your suppliers for their suggestions and if they will support your evening with promotional goodies and some products FOC, heavily discounted or on SOR.

Getting the ladies through the doors will probably be the hardest part. You could ask your local newspaper to run a story, and you might get lucky, but you shouldn’t rely on them. A better idea would be to create some eye-catching flyers promoting the night and asking appropriate local businesses, such as nail technicians, hairdressers and tanning salons, if they will display them on their counters. Perhaps they’d also like to come along to the event to promote themselves, if your store is large enough to accommodate them. If you do go with flyers, ensure that there is a seriously attractive voucher offer included on it.

Since their heyday in the 1970s, money-off coupons have fallen out of favour in recent years, but apparently the current recession is improving their notoriously low redemption rate. Take a look at shopping website www.bview.co.uk and you’ll see that many High Street names are offering vouchers through the site, including Asda, Argos, Tesco, Comet, Pizza Hut, PC World, HMV, Halfords, Moss Bros and… Ann Summers.

BView boss Brad Liebmann recently said: “Money-off vouchers have suddenly become very popular … There may have been some stigma towards using discount coupons in the past but that seems to have disappeared. Retailers not offering discounts could be left out in the cold.”

Another online shopping site, www.MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, has also reported an increase in popularity for printable coupons and online voucher codes – in December alone the site received eight million unique visits while in March the demand for vouchers had increased 192% over February.

I’ve used my whole column talking about this, so if you do stage a Ladies Night, please let me know how you get on. We could do with some ‘good news’ stories at the moment.