The right merchandise can be a smart marketing play
There is nothing better than shopping at a local store and seeing someone wearing a hat or a shirt from your restaurant. Right!?! Or someone pointing at your shirt or hat when you are out running errands in your day, and someone says, “Hey, I love that place!”
That’s what merch does. It spreads recognition of your brand and allows your customers to show off who they support when it comes to pizza. Merch is fun and exciting, but it can be expensive! Understand that your merch strategy is also a part of your marketing strategy. At GAPCo, we have done everything from koozies to selling our own pizza seasoning, stickers, tattoos, magnets, bandanas, sweat bands, baby onesies and even a skateboard wrap. We even took it to another level and had our logo lasered on pizza cutters and knives to sell those as part of our merch line. But, as the world has moved to print on demand, our customers can now sport our logo on beach towels, socks, leggings and dresses. You name it; we can now conveniently cover you from head to toe in GAPCo because print-on-demand has made it so easy.
When you consider what you want to put your logo on, let’s cover what we have learned at GAPCo that has worked and what didn’t.
Selling Merch / Creative Ideas / Utilizing the Web
First and foremost, the most influential and impactful thing you can do is have your staff in a branded company uniform. This is single-handedly the number one way to get your customers to see a cool, hip shirt or hat they may want to buy. I will mainly focus on shirts because that will be the number one thing you will sell that carries the biggest impact. At GAPCo, we always try to keep it fun, so we typically do a few designs to give the staff and customers variety. We also do a variety of testing out branding slogans on shirts to see if our customers gravitate toward it. So instead of just a shirt that says GAPCo or Greenville Avenue Pizza Company, we may have a shirt that says, “Pizza Slayer” or “Slay Pizza”. Those are two of our trademarked slogans. One time, we made a shirt that said, “Eat. Sleep. Slay Pizza”. We crossed out the word sleep and put “drink red bull”. It was more for the staff but kept it fun and customers laughing.
What if you do create variety and try to make merch creative? Well, yes. You will have more styles for customers to buy, but keeping inventory will be a challenge, as it was for us. Ultimately, our team members are the biggest purchasers of the shirts because they love getting the newest look, so it can be a lot of work to keep track of inventory. Nothing is worse than a guest seeing a shirt they want, and we don’t have the size they need. You can’t sell what you don’t have… well you can now! The answer is creating a merch store on your website. This way, you can direct guests to your website and have them get the size they want. The extra bonus is that you don’t have your staff tearing through boxes during a dinner rush trying to find a specific size for a guest. Now, you can keep revenue coming in on your merch without the inventory.
So, how do you make this happen? There are several different companies you can partner with to handle your print-on-demand service. Not only are you able to get them to be able to print shirts, but you can go wild with many different items, as I listed earlier. You can link those items to a shop or Merch page on your website, and Boom! You now have your own merch store. Doing this has allowed us to free the burden off the staff and stores by keeping inventory, it has allowed us to print on a variety of items that we find fun, and it has given our guests a streamlined way to purchase merch.
Selling Merchandise Do’s & Don’ts
Let’s recap some do’s and don’ts from what you read above. Don’t just have your inventory in the store. Do provide an alternative way for your customers to order your merch from your website. Don’t feel like all you have to do is print your name on a shirt. Get creative and do slogans, unique designs and fun colors. In the end, if it fails with your guests, your staff will likely buy them. Don’t get wild and offer your logo on things that don’t make sense but do consider going outside the box and taking advantage of the print-on-demand services that allow you to print your logo on some cool things.
One of the biggest struggles with creating merch is having the time to invest in new looks and styles you want to see in your store and on your guests. The good news is that a lot of companies out there that sell merch will create the look for you. If you don’t have the creative gene, it’s not a problem. Merch companies are staffed with creative people to give you multiple designs on all the things you want to print on. Merch companies also have their finger more on the pulse of what they think is trending. This can lead to some real creative things you would have never thought of. Find a company that fits the personality you are trying to convey through your merch and have them do all the work. If you want to step up from there, you can consult with a branding company to really elevate your merch style. This can be a very expensive route that can lead to some very appealing merch. I heard once, “You wear what you are, and you are what you wear,” so give your team and guests a reason to buy what you are.