Geneva Home Center hosts an annual Ladies Night event that brings the community together.
On an early November Monday evening, winds gusted through the downtown streets of Geneva, Neb., but there was more in the air than blustery weather. Laughter, friendly conversation and a festive holiday spirit filled Geneva Home Center as more than 300 community members stepped into the hardware store for its annual Ladies Night event, this year called Mistletoe and Margaritas.
Inside the store owned by Glen and Lori Loontjer, the delicious smell of Mexican food wafted through the air along with excited anticipation for prizes such as jewelry, massage gift certificates and gallons of paint. Each year, Geneva Home Center relies on special events such as Mistletoe and Margaritas to draw in new and returning customers.
“During our Ladies Night, we see a lot of new customers and definitely get in a lot of people we didn’t know,” says Lori Loontjer, who coordinates the seasonal special events for the store. “We sell a lot of trees, lights and decor while entertaining customers with food and drink. They do lots of shopping, but groups of four to six friends come in together. It’s a social event. It is well worth it. And for us, it’s way of thanking our community.”
Geneva Home Center takes on a whole new sparkle around the holidays. Each fall, a massive 42-foot Christmas tree out front lets shoppers know they are about to enter a yuletide wonderland inside. Along with Ladies Night, their Sip ‘n Shop events draw holiday shoppers to their enormous seasonal category with beverages, snacks and product giveaways. An annual Jingle and Mingle with Santa gives away $750 in gift certificates from local merchants. Each event draws customers to experience the friendly atmosphere, personal service and expansive product selection Geneva Home Center offers year-round.
In addition to Ladies Night, Geneva Home Center holds Sip ‘n Shop events that draw holiday shoppers.
Like Geneva Home Center, other independent retailers can increase foot traffic, attract new customers and boost the bottom line with seasonal events. Beyond any financial benefits, seasonal events have a greater function by uniting a community, deeply tying a business to its customers not just for one night but for generations. So, during this holiday season, The Hardware Connection asked three retailers who excel at putting on such seasonal events to share how they plan, promote, and carry out such community gatherings.
Geneva Home Center’s Ladies Night event offered a grand prize package of Nebraska-made products!
The Ladies Night event at Geneva Home Center is fun for the staff and gets the town buzzing for weeks.
Connecting with Community
The first, biggest question when considering a seasonal special event is: What kind of event? With six to 12 events per year, Rainey’s Corner Market in White City, Ore., has developed a strong connection with its community through these gatherings.
“My biggest piece of advice for other retailers looking to do seasonal events is to ask yourself ‘Why are you doing the event?’ and ‘Who are you doing it for?’ then keep that in the forefront of planning,” says Chloe Ellis, the store’s manager. “People respond to that, and honesty pays back in dividends.”
Attendees from a recent clinic at Rainey’s Corner Market.
One event Rainey’s Corner Market hatched a few years ago was its annual Easter Egg Hunt, which is now the store’s most popular seasonal event. Each spring about 120 to 150 children visit the store to hunt through its on-site hay barn. Parents can elect to have children receive a goodie bag or live chick. In addition to the nearby families attending the event, the local 4-H club members volunteer to help hide eggs and guide younger kids.
Local 4-H youth learn about show prep, nutrition and products from experienced pros at clinics hosted by Rainey’s.
In addition to the Easter Egg Hunt, other events at Rainey’s Corner Market combine education with fun. “We want to help farmers do better and work smarter, not harder,” Ellis says. “When people come out and feel part of community, it’s essential for survival, especially for a small business. We have customers who drive more than two hours to come to our store because we have that open, community feel.”
Special events are also a time when customers are choosing to come to the store, not when they are in the middle of a repair and need to get in and out quickly. Customers are coming for a sense of community, so the event needs to live up to that expectation, Ellis says.