Hot tub tent sales need big visuals to attract customers
You’re driving along listening to the radio, when ahead you see a big white tent with banners waving in the wind. There wasn’t one there yesterday. Curiosity takes over, and you look to see what’s happening. In big letters, the banners shout HOT TUBS plus a local business’s logo.
There is a very good reason some of your peers and competitors
are going to the considerable effort of having tent sales: They work very well
when done correctly.
Shawn Maynard, owner of Bullfrog Spas of Northern Utah, looks first at locations. He wants a good-size parking lot for a business that attracts lots of local traffic with consistent customers, such as a grocery store or hardware store. Visibility is important — but not as much as strong traffic.
“Put up a tent and people will come,” says Jamie Severs, general manager for Lifestyles Hot Tubs, which has nine Michigan locations. “Driving along, we need to stop and see what’s in the tent.”
Severs decides where to
put tents based on the locations of Lifestyles’ nine stores. He looks for
locations in busy mall parking lots, including Meijer grocery stores and
Petsmart. Regular customers will feel comfortable going into a tent in their familiar
lot. Severs advertises tent sale incentives on billboards, his storefront and
road signs. Often, potential customers will stop in the store to get a quote,
then drop into the tent sale. They’ll see the additional discounts and realize
buying at the sale is a better deal.
Severs is cautious about flooding the market, so he doesn’t do
tents in the same areas too often. His goal is to set up the sales far away
from each other throughout the Lifestyles service area, ideally having the
sales spaced between two stores so customers can also visit the store closest
Maynard looks for areas that are somewhat remote and at least 30
miles away from one of his stores so there’s a sense of urgency for the
customer to buy now rather than travel all those miles to a store.
Other than the 20-by-40-foot tent branded with the Bullfrog Spas
logo and HOT TUB SALE banners, Maynard uses 30 flags around the perimeter.
Flags are latched to tent posts so they flutter in the wind above the tent top.
Other flags go around the property and its perimeter. If he’s using a
generator, he’ll add tube dudes (giant inflatables) to attract attention.
Maynard traded a hot tub for a camping trailer, which he wrapped
with the Bullfrog Spas of Northern Utah logo. This trailer also becomes the
office at off-site events. Additionally, a hot tub is tilted up in the back of
a high truck so it can be seen from the road. He also utilizes a branded
monster truck with “tires
that come up to your chin.” It’s a hit with adults and kids alike, he says, and
is a great photo op for selfies and families.
Severs uses 4-by-12-foot banners, and several blue and silver
Mylar helium balloons. Once the tent sale is over, these balloons are still
flying and get transferred to the nearest store. If a customer says they just
missed the sale, a staff member will offer the customer the sale price.
Until the snow falls, Severs lights the spas and adds LED rope
lighting around the toe kicks of each spa to make the tent glow as the sun fades.
A generator easily powers all the lights as well as some space heaters in the
colder months. The tent set-up is as similar to the stores as possible, with
shrubs to break up the rows of spas, signs, banners and balloons. Combined with
the lights, the tent becomes an appealing, showroom-like experience with the
excitement of an impromptu sale, fresh air and an unusual location.
Maynard lines up the spas so there is room to walk around and
also adds patio furniture. “Depending
on the space, we’ll angle the smaller spas into diamonds,” he says. “Each unit has a [matching] stand
with a placard sign. We show a lot of merchandise. Too few pieces don’t sell.
We have at least eight spas, plus a swim spa.”
Audio is as important as visual appeal. Since generators can be
noisy, Maynard asks the power company to put in a temporary drop (like a
construction site) so he can have electricity on-site. He has his own post with
a meter, which makes the power company happy, too.
Giveaways, Handouts and Food
If the tent sale is in a grocery store lot, Maynard will put
inserts into customers’ bags twice a week for at least two weeks before the
event. To notify the public, Severs sends email blasts to past customers,
informing of the upcoming tent sales and manufacturer discounts. The reduced
cost doesn’t affect the salespeople, which gives them incentive to sell well.
Each Lifestyles tent sale has a barbecue going with hot dogs and
burgers. Free bottled water, seltzer and pop — especially Mountain Dew — is
offered to customers and browsers. Severs will often eat when a potential
customer does. “It becomes
more friendly and personal when you break bread together,” he says. “People will hang out longer and
feel more inclined to engage with a salesperson when they are welcomed in by
food. It’s a gift, and they know and appreciate it.”
If you’re considering a tent sale, remember that how it looks
matters. Don’t skimp on the size of your banners, as they need to be seen from
a distance. Aim for a strong contrast — dark letters on a white or light tent.
Yellow or light blue on white won’t read from a distance. Add anything that
moves: balloons, tube dudes and beach-type flags in bright colors attract
attention. Lights, especially as the sunlight wanes, are important; tents tend
to be dark. Organization is everything. Be prepared and make it fun for you,
staff and customers.
times when the ROI manifests right away,” Maynard says, “and others when we make friends and sell
later.” Sometimes he’ll hear, “I
saw you at this event,” and he’ll know the tent sale from months ago is finally
Get a permit to put up the tents
Plug rent and fees into your hot tub prices
Follow local ordinances
Write up a step-by-step procedure for staff to have a successful tent event in each municipality, including rules and regulations plus items — including décor — to bring to each event
Have a dedicated toolbox for off-site events with everything needed to hang, install and connect your structure and design elements
Jamie Severs general manager Lifestyles Hot Tubs, Michigan
LINDA CAHAN is an internationally known expert in visual merchandising strategy and store design. She gives seminars, workshops, trains and consults for chain stores and independent retailers. Along with SpaRetailer, she writes for several other retail magazines, and is the author of two books and seven corporate visual standards manuals. Cahan lives in West Linn, Oregon. lindacahan.com