It is an unspoken fact that in order for people to remember your business, you not only need good product and excellent customer service, you need a brand. In order to promote that brand you need merchandise. So what type of merchandise do you need?
That depends on your industry, but for bookstores it is fairly simple and short list.
- Bookmarks. These are the standard item for a book business. Doubling as a business card, with the store information on either one side or incorporated in the design, these little items can be as cheaply made (off a printer & laminated) or as detailed as you like (carved out of wood). Some people even collect bookmarks. But most people will only pay for the fancier ones, so if you are intending to give them away don’t blow the budget on them.
- Bags. There are many types, but since every customer needs something to hold all of the purchases, bags are a no brainer. The two most common types are Plastic and Canvas.
Plastic: Okay no one really wants to use these any more. In fact a growing trend is to ban the use of them. But if you do want to get them, you can have your store name printed on them in bulk. Now there are some more environmental friendly plastic bags out there, but they tend to be very expensive.
Canvas: These can be made with different cloths, but tend to be durable and are reusable. Multiple designs can be made on them, all tailored to showcase a different aspect of your brand. Best of all, they are washable.
Style/Size: The style of bag is important as well. A square bottom bag is better to hold items securely, but the handles are the most important. Books are heavy, and if the handles break the books are damaged. It is good to offer a selection of sizes as well. Smaller bags (holding a few paperbacks) can be a substitute for gift- wrapping if the design is good. Larger bags (like paper delivery bags) are great to re-purpose as laundry bags, but fill them with books and you’ll need to start selling pain medicine.
- Writing Materials. What goes with reading better than writing materials? Decorative notebooks are a brilliant thing to do, but the market is getting quite cluttered with them. So unless you have a hook that will make you stand out ( hand-carved wooden notebooks, glitter covered pages and so on) , don’t over do it. Pens and pencils are still a good idea and there are many companies out there that can make this an affordable option.
- Household items. This is mainly coffee mugs, and tea cups. Which can be connected to books and reading quite easily. But some stores make decorative hot plates, coasters and I have even seen utensils. Once again, the object is to get people to advertise for you, so unless the customer is a professional chef, slapping your store information on a set of kitchen knives is not going to do much for you. And that would also be expensive to make.
- Apparel. T-shirts, hoodies, scarves, hats and umbrellas are the items I see most often. All of them imprinted with the store’s information and a logo. Unless it rains a lot near your store, skip the umbrellas. They are expressive to make and sell, and very few people look at the top of one to see the logo. Like business cards and book marks clothing is the place to go crazy (with in reason). Good quality and a good or unusual design will make them a good add on item, which will then be a constant reminder of your store and brand for months to come.
- Store Specific. Some stores already have a brand item from the start. There is a bookshop that sells teddy bears with the books as a reading device for beginner readers. So they started to put small t-shirts on the bears with the store name on them. Another store had a cat mascot, and started selling plushies. Find what is special about your store and see if it is easily transferable . If not don’t sweat it.
So those are the ones that are industry specific. Brand awareness and the merchandise it creates can be helpful and harmful to the business depending on how much time and income is spent on it. Remember this is an add on. If it becomes your business, then that is a whole other situation.