Business

Stores roll out red carpet to customers

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Sunday, September 09, 2012    

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THE Jamaica Observer Celebrates Fashion's Night Out (FNO) was more than just a five-hour sale. It provided a broader marketing boost for retailers.

This was certainly the case for Karen Hanchard, who opened her store, Vixen, two months ago in Tropical Plaza, Kingston.

Some of the shoppers at the store didn't know it existed before Thursday night's retail extravaganza.

While Hanchard would have loved to generate more sales, she was quite happy for the exposure her store got.

Some shoppers told the Jamaica Observer that they would not have known about Vixen if they had not been moving from store to store.

A newcomer to FNO, Hanchard prepared for the event, placing all her items on sale and increasing her stock of clothes, handbags, shoes and accessories by 40 per cent.

Some of the 2,000 participating retailers used FNO — the second biggest shopping day of the year after Christmas Eve — to launch new products.

Nettle and Moss, a retailer and distributor of natural haircare — and skincare products, planned the launch of the much sought-after American line Carol's Daughter around FNO.

To mark the line's arrival into the island, Aisha Morgan, founder of Nettle and Moss, presented the shampoos and conditioners to Jamaicans at a discounted price.

Although hailed as a success, the event did raise some concerns. Because it comes so close to the back-to-school season, a few retailers feared that customers might have less cash to spend.

"The last couple of months have been slow," said Nicola Byron, one of the owners of Island Art and Framing in Orchid Village, Kingston. "We didn't know the degree to which we would see a boost in our sales."

FNO customer Lisa Brown said that many customers like her were looking for value for money. "While it is a wonderful shopping opportunity, back-to-school is around the same time," she said.

New parents York and Julia Seaton used the opportunity to shop for themselves and their baby, Christian. York Seaton said that they had found some great deals, and had some fun. "We made the most of every experience."

Island Art, like Vixen, bought extra inventory — particularly locally crafted furniture — for FNO. And Byron not only sold items from her existing stock but displayed examples of future designs, giving shoppers a taste of what is to come.

Store owners outside Kingston and St Andrew were also pleased with the response from shoppers.

"I was completely blown away by the number of customers who turned out," said Tamara Rowe, owner of Tuscany Boutique in Mandeville. Her store attracted far more customers than it did at last year's FNO.

In addition to giving customers the opportunity to shop, the event allowed her a chance to treat them, she said.

Elsewhere, in Montego Bay and Kingston, J Wray and Nephew set up bars in some outlets featuring Appleton Jamaica Rum and Absolut Vodka.

Island Art capitalised on the creativity of its business line. Byron had a model pretend to be a painting — surprising customers by moving from time to time.

The entertainment at Tropical Plaza included DJs playing reggae and hip-hop tracks in the parking lot.

Several businesses felt they needed to beef up security to deal with frenzied shoppers.

"Now is the time we have to cut the numbers that come in," a worker told Hanchard as Vixen became packed.

Like the Maxie Department Store in May Pen, Vixen had hired extra staff to deal with the crush.

Others, such as Collectibles at Mall Plaza, Kingston, limited the number of customers who could enter at any one time.

In order to capitalise on the event, stores like Collectibles placed every item on sale. "Last year's feedback was good, so we wanted to continue with the great sale," said Jasmine Morrison, the store manager.

The sale was not confined to handbags, clothes and accessories. Household items and electronics were also discounted. Answer's Gift and Home Centre in Tropical Plaza, Kingston said that in recent days customers had been scouting for items, taking pictures of those they wanted to buy on sale.

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