Here’s how to inspire your local dance community to spend just a little bit more time and money at your store or studio. Don’t wait until Black Friday or Small Business Saturday to take action.
Back-to-dance season may still be in full swing, but we all know what that means: The holiday season is just around the corner, and it’s time to start thinking about how to stir up extra revenue during the last quarter of the year.
With the global supply chain meltdown, consumers already know they have to get a head start on holiday shopping—even though they’re curbing their spending right now due to current economic pressures, says Quincy Marr, founding partner of AQtion Marketing, a woman- and LGBTQ+-owned brand-experience agency based in New York City. “We can expect holiday shopping to start early this year,” Marr says. “Don’t wait until Black Friday or Small Business Saturday to start your holiday promotions.”
Begin holiday messaging in mid- to late October, keeping in mind that early communication should tread lightly when it comes to holiday language and festivities. “You don’t want to add to holiday fatigue; however, you can demonstrate to your customers that you understand them, share their concerns over budgeting and supplies, and that you’re there to provide solutions to make their lives better and easier,” Marr says. He also notes that nothing is more important than perceived value and feel-good experiences.
When you have fun creating thoughtful holiday-themed events and marketing strategies, your customers are much more likely to spend a little bit more time (and money) in your business. Here are 11 revenue-boosting concepts you can take and scale, or use for inspiration:
1. Kick the season off with a bang. Small Business Saturday, always held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season for dance retailers like Attitude Dance Boutique of College Station, TX. “We offer a gift-with-purchase goodie bag, discounts, sweet treats, and we make a big celebration out of it,” owner Emily Mayerhoff says, although she notes that she does start decorating the first week of November. Vendors are happy to donate items for the bags, and no one leaves the shop empty-handed: Even if no purchase is made, guests receive some sort of gift to take with them, whether it’s a hair tie on a card, a bath bomb or a candy cane pen.
2. Design a special gifting option for grandparents, aunts and uncles. A boxed “invitation” for a “snow-fairy training class” for the tiniest of tots, for instance, complete with a sparkly tutu. “It’s a nice pairing between a studio and a dance retailer for the tutus and any other goodies you’ll use, and it’s a great gift to wrap and put under the tree,” says Jill Tirone, a marketing strategist and the content and community manager for DanceStudioOwner.com.
3. Bring your dance store’s window displays to life by highlighting live models during high-traffic shopping hours. “You can feature students and community influencers, or you can partner with a local organization, schools or universities to create a living window,” Marr says.
4. Make a big deal out of thoughtful small gifts. Attitude Dance Boutique started presenting a “Stocking Stuffer Barre” three years ago with items that are $20 or less, such as lip balms, snow globes, fun socks, mini-pointe-shoe keychains, bath bombs, manicure sets, die-cut Nutcracker stickers and a plastic ornament filled with hair ties. “It’s very popular—people always ask about it and make a point to stop by,” Mayerhoff says.
5. Private-class punch cards make great stocking stuffers or gifts for older dance studio students. Maybe it’s three privates for the cost of two, or a five- or 10-punch card. The upside is that you get paid up front for them. The downside (if they become overwhelmingly popular) is that you might be doing a lot of private lessons in 2023.
6. Host a livestream shopping experience. “If a consumer can’t make it to your store, bring the store to them,” Marr says, adding that you can offer store tours, fashion shows and product demonstrations on your social platforms. “You can even schedule private, virtual shopping appointments for clients who can’t make it to you. A customized, hyper-personalized shopping experience clients can attend right from their phone or computer in the middle of a busy day is priceless—just be sure to offer complimentary shipping or delivery, or, at a minimum, outside pickup.”
7. Use social media to highlight your staff’s picks for gifts in various price ranges. Attitude Dance Boutique, for example, uses a collage image on Instagram of six items, and then uses the Stories feature to call out each item with the person who recommended it. Those get saved into a highlight reel, which becomes an easily accessible digital gift-giving guide.
8. Add holiday shopping reminders and countdowns into any online calendar system that you might share with your customers. Tirone recommends that dance studios try BAND, a free communication management app that keeps everything in one place, from instant messaging to alerts to schedules.
9. Turn your studio into a stage. Not all studios can afford to rent a theater, but you can certainly turn your space into one. “Decorate the studio, have your older dancers show a few divertissements from The Nutcracker, wearing costumes that you already have or can create, and charge $10 or $15 a ticket,” says Adam Holms, owner and artistic director of the Norwalk Metropolitan Youth Ballet in Norwalk, CT. “It’s an easy way to make money and engage everyone.” You could even use the event (or final rehearsals) as a ticketed promotion/sneak peek for any performances you may hold at a theater.
10. Open up your Nutcracker. If your studio does present a Nutcracker, consider opening the audition process to area studios. “Anyone can come and audition for our production, and if they are selected, we charge them $375 to participate,” Holms says. “And, of course, that means their families are also buying tickets.”
11. Make the most of the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Consider hosting a Sugar Plum Fairy variation workshop for your intermediate students. “It’s great money and it gets the kids doing something during Christmas break,” Holms says, adding that he’ll offer a three-day contemporary intensive for the first time this winter for his advanced students. From December 28 to 30, they’ll take college-prep–level classes five hours a day from guest teachers. They will also have the option to work on their competition solos with reduced-rate private lessons. He believes it will be a success: A recent contemporary workshop brought in 37 students from area studios. Not only was Holms able to act as a director instead of as the main instructor, the students received invaluable training, and Norwalk Metropolitan Youth Ballet saw thousands of dollars in revenue.
Hannah Maria Hayes has an MA in dance education from New York University and has been writing for Dance Media publications since 2008.