Brick-and-mortar retailers have a key advantage over point-and-click shopping: there’s an actual space to bring people together with in-store retail events. As a retailer, having a physical store gives you access to customers interested in your store’s products.

Creating in-store events brings your customer base together and grows your community, with outsiders intrigued by the goings-on. They can reinforce relationships between you and your customers, reminding people why they already love your products and providing an opportunity to introduce them to your latest offerings. All you need are some engaging retail event ideas.

To help you create innovative retail events, we’ve put together this guide full of event ideas for retail stores, so you can take advantage of the space you have available.

Table of contents

What is a retail event?

Benefits of retail events

What to consider when planning an in-store event

Retail event ideas to get you started

Case studies tell the tale: success breeds success

What is a retail event?

A retail event is an event that’s typically open to the public, organized or hosted by a retail store — often at the store’s location. If the occasion calls for it, the event can be held elsewhere.

The event will generally feature products sold by the retailer — for example, a store that sells kitchen equipment may host a cooking class using its wares, or an outdoor equipment store might organize a wilderness survival class featuring its gear.

Benefits of retail events

While retail events can be time-consuming and costly, they help set brands apart from their online and other brick-and-mortar competitors. This has important marketing and branding benefits. An in-store event establishes the brand as more than a simple retailer, introducing a lifestyle element to the brand that can lead to increased growth and opportunity.

In addition to distinguishing a store’s brand from competitors without the space to accommodate guests, retail events also help with:

Building a customer base

Events introduce your store to new customers. Event-goers often bring friends or family, who may not be familiar with either the activity or the brand. Similarly, people looking for an event to attend may find a brand they wouldn’t have found when shopping only. Events broaden the brand’s marketing reach, exposing the brand to potential customers it may not have reached otherwise.

Brand loyalty

Retail events strengthen the association event-goers have between a retailer’s products and the activity at the center of the event. That association will often increase the event-goer’s brand loyalty and expand the brand’s reach to the event activity. So, an athleticwear brand might attract brand loyalty among the event-goers first introduced to the brand by a yoga class held at the store location, or a video-game retailer can increase its association with gaming by hosting an e-tournament.

Increased sales and revenue

A more extensive customer base and greater brand loyalty naturally lead to increased sales and revenue. Don’t forget to maintain growth by continuing an events program that keeps widening your brand’s reach.

What to consider when planning an in-store event

When brainstorming ideas for in-store events, take a broad overview of your store, your community, and your goals before deciding on a format and topic. This helps create a solid foundation on which to build your event and enhances your chances of success.

1. Know your community and audience

It’s a golden rule: know your audience. If you don’t know who your audience is, how will you know how to interest and inspire them? Your audience will likely be made up of your customer base, so note who your customers are. Are they older or younger? Married or single? Students or professionals? The types of events that appeal to college kids, for example, will be different from those attracting families.

2. Connect with your brand

As interesting and entertaining as your event may be, remember that the purpose of hosting an event is to grow your brand by growing your community. This means taking full advantage of every branding opportunity. For example, promote the event as being “presented” by your brand, so your community immediately associates your brand with the event.

3. Get noticed

Make your event stand out. Instead of a book reading of the newest murder mystery at your independent bookstore, turn it into a murder mystery event and have guests figure out who the “murderer” is. Take the unique aspects of your store and highlight them throughout your event. If you run a fashion boutique, a fashion show complete with a catwalk could grab attention. Get creative!

4. Schedule strategically

Dates around holidays are perfect times to schedule your retail events. People are already in a festive mood, they’re willing to go out to events, and they can often be in the market to purchase gifts as well. More shoppers mean more foot traffic around your store’s location, so your event can attract passers-by who may not be familiar with your event or store.

Retail event ideas to get you started

Now that you’ve considered some concepts for your event, determine what formats and topics will help your store marketing plan. Remember to adapt your plan to suit your brand’s identity. That way, guests will have an engaging experience learning about your products, and you’ll reinforce your branding by making it integral to the event.

1. Host a fundraiser

Turn your event into a fundraiser and contribute to society while associating your brand with charitable activities. It doesn’t matter what retail sector you’re in — there’s almost always a charitable angle to pursue. For example, if you run a bakery, host a fundraiser to raise scholarship money for aspiring culinary students.

2. Hold a class or demonstration

When exploring ideas for your retail event, think of something that teaches attendees a new skill and use your store’s products in the class. For example, cooking classes and demonstrations make natural — and popular — events for stores selling kitchen appliances. If you sell electronics goods, host a demonstration that teaches how to best outfit your home theater.

3. Showcase a product

If you have a particular product you want to draw attention to, host a product showcase event to highlight everything you want people to know about the product. If it’s a new fashion line for your boutique, hire models and show off the goods. Make the presentation attention-grabbing with special lighting and music.

4. Bring in a guest speaker

Guest speakers can create excellent events, especially if the guest is noteworthy or accomplished. An author at a bookstore is a classic example, but there are many other possibilities. Invite a jeweler to speak at your jewelry boutique, or invite a gaming streamer to your video-game store for a signing or demo.

5. Thank your community

Express your gratitude to new and returning customers with a special customer appreciation event. Creating a memorable, positive event can persuade customers to continue shopping with your business — and you can spread the word about your products.

6. Get creative with social media

Social media helps get the word out about your event. Offer a promotion to anyone who shares a post about your event and give them 10% off in-store. Eventbrite Boost makes it easy to promote your event across a range of social media sites, maximizing your event’s reach.

7. Offer freebies

There’s a reason big-name companies give free gifts to celebrities at awards shows. Provide a limited number of goodie bags — stocked with some of your favorite items — to customers on a first-come, first-served basis to encourage early arrivals. The more people that learn about your product, the better.

8. Run a competition

Another way to promote your brand is by holding a competition. Have a breakout during your event for a special prize draw, giving away a store item to the lucky winner. Or go for the classic option — a trivia quiz — but focus the questions on your brand.

Case studies tell the tale: success breeds success

Check out what events have worked in the past and what other event creators in similar situations are doing. We’ve gathered these in-store events examples so you can take inspiration from their success.

The Allure Store puts the focus on beauty

The Allure Store is a New York City boutique specializing in beauty care, with products focused on skincare, makeup, haircare, and similar products. The store emphasizes a high-tech shopping experience. And as a major part of that experience, it has hosted a series of events, highlighting a different brand each time. Guests try a new product, strengthening The Allure Store’s brand as the go-to for beauty care.

The General Store at Serenbe for the win(e)

Based in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, the General Store at Serenbe hosts a tasting of “wines from around the globe” every Saturday. The store sells locally sourced foods, specialized fine items like cheese, hormone-free meats and fish, and everyday products like jams, pickles, and honey. It also hosts a wine club, with wine tastings helping establish it as the local one-stop shop for the finer things in life.

The Leica Store gets the snaps

It’s no surprise that for a city so focused on image, the Leica Store in Los Angeles has hosted “test drives” of its latest camera sets. Customers schedule a special one-hour session at these events to try out the latest high-end camera. The top camera brand’s West Hollywood store location hosts photography-focused events, too, such as partnering with local dance studios to teach guests techniques like stroboscopic lighting.

Full Circle is full-square for authors

Oklahoma City’s Full Circle Bookstore leans in with hosting author events, and delivers with big names like Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade to discuss his book about Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, “The President and the Freedom Fighter.” Another guest was New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown, who talked about her book, “Atlas of the Heart.” Full Circle makes the most of being the largest independent bookstore in Oklahoma to attract big names and reach as many people as possible.

Now turn your retail event ideas into event realities

Once you’ve decided on the best format for your store and have secured guest speakers or event partners, create your event on Eventbrite. Take advantage of the array of marketing and promotional tools, including ticket sales and registration, and Eventbrite Boost, the event promotion tool that makes it easy to market your event across social media platforms, and more.

Get your next event started today.