Curbside appeal does not just apply to houses. It’s the first impression customers have of your business, and especially during this tough economic time, anything a business owner can do to attract and keep customers is more important than ever.
The first step in making sure your business is inviting is to step outside and, using your critical eye, scan the entire area. Often a business owner or manager uses a side or back entrance and neglects to pay attention to the front of the store.
Do you have cracks in your sidewalk with grass growing up in between? If you don’t want to use chemicals, give your local extension agent or nursery a call and find out what natural options there are. Is your sidewalk swept and regularly hosed off? Check to see if your entry is free of cobwebs and that your front door and knob are clean — maybe even consider repainting your door an eye-catching color.
Look at your signage. It is faded or worn, and can it can be easily seen while driving or walking by?
Check to see if there are too many flyers in your window and whether they are outdated. Having a designated spot inside will give organizations a place to advertise their event or other information and will leave your windows clear so customers can see what you have to offer or enjoy your display. This may lessen the chances of them reading the flyer and walking on by. Speaking of seeing through your windows, can you? Or is it time to break out the window cleaner?
Are objects in your window display covered with dust or faded by the sun? When was the last time you changed it? Shoppers are looking for what’s new and different and are not going to be drawn in by the same old stuff.
Have you planted, weeded and watered your flowers? Is your flag faded and tattered or properly lit?
Make certain your days and hours of operation are clearly posted and that you adhere to them. It doesn’t make customers very happy to find a note saying, “I’ll be back in 10 minutes or closed for vacation.”
As shoppers venture out, feeling safe is of utmost importance to them. Post your COVID-19 policy on your front door so customers know what to expect and what your efforts are to keep them safe. Many businesses are providing hand sanitizer near the front door and requesting customers use it when entering and exiting. Some are providing masks. Be certain you are following the mandatory safety guidelines for your type of business. Clean often, paying special attention to doorknobs, the counter and pin pads on debit card machines — doing this in front of customers so they can see you are paying attention to cleanliness is not a bad idea.
Finally, you may want to consider joining a downtown association or banding together with other business owners in coming up with a plan inviting other shops in the area to participate in keeping their store fronts spiffed up. Everyone will benefit, and customers will have a reason to come in and spend their money.
In closing, please note: Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center will be hiring a limited-duration, part-time business adviser for Grant County. It will be for 20 hours per week at a little over $30 per hour, and the position will last until March 31, 2021. If you are interested in applying, submit a resume, cover letter and three professional references. The successful candidate will have a minimum of five years business and/or lending experience. Please send application materials to the email address listed below.