Epode's Seasonal Shopkeeping
So, you want a successful shop? But do you find malling to be too much hassle? Well, pull up a chair, my friend, you’ve entered the right guide!
After the success of running a seasonal shop for one month in the run up to Valentine’s Day – I have experienced first hand the workload, and of course reaped in the rewards.
What Is ‘Seasonal’?
Seasonal can be described as “one of the major divisions of the year, generally based on yearly periodic changes in weather.”
Or rather, in easier terms: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. All around Neopia, we celebrate holidays during these seasons, namely Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. But don’t forget about the Neopian holidays, such as Illusen and Jhudora Day – and of course, your favourite pet days! During these holidays, Neopians everywhere love to give gifts to Neofriends, and hope to receive gifts from others.
So, let’s get started, shall we?
What Do You Need?
1) A shop, of a decent size - my shop was upgraded from 40 to 80 in the course of a month.
2) An interest in the holiday - there is no point having a Thanksgiving themed shop, if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving yourself!
3) Disposable Income - this is so important. Please make sure you have enough Neopoints for the upkeep of a shop and stocking it. I had millions, but it’s not necessary. 500k and up will do to start your very own seasonal shop.
4) Super Shop Wizard – this is advisable, but not necessary. If you are a premium member, make the most of this fantastic tool!
A layout that people remember will make them come back to your shop. Try to follow these golden rules when choosing a layout for your shop
1) Choose colours that go well.
2) Have a font that people will be able to read. A colour that doesn’t hurt your fellow Neopians’ eyes is advisable!
3) Make sure your layout matches the theme of the items you are selling!
1) Have any flashing animations, unnecessary music or pictures/banners in the shop.
2) Have backgrounds that are too ‘busy’ and will distract users from your items.
3) Have a reel of information that is not needed for the shop. Users want to go in and buy items, not to read how close you are to your paint brush fund.
Your shop stock is the most important thing you need to worry about. It is what your customers buy, and it is what brings those Neopoints into your till! You need to do your research prior to opening a seasonal shop. What items do people go for? What would Neopians buy for friends, or what would they buy to complete a seasonal gallery they are working on? Here are some helpful examples.
Christmas Tree Negg || Deluxe Candy Cane || Purple Stocking
Valentines Cookies || Ruby Heart Pendant || Valentines Muffin
Pink Snowbunny Easter Negg || Easter Bunny Usuki || Iced Easter Chick Cookie
Illusen Building Blocks || Illusen Day Burger || Illusen Vine Rug
Make sure you have plenty of each item in stock. Set ground rules for how you are going to do this, because not everyone can afford to have 10 of the same 50k item in stock when it’s not going to sell quickly.
My price/items in stock ratio was like this:
Under 5k = 10 in stock
Under 10k = 5 in stock
Under 50k = 3 in stock
Over 50k = 2 in stock
Whether or not you like it, restocking has to be done, and it has to be done on a daily basis, depending on your sales. Make sure you buy back in what you have sold, to be sure to have equal stock at all times. If you can’t get on every day and have a lot of sales – it can be daunting to search and buy. Instead, check your shop front, and see what you are low in stock. If you adopted the same stock technique as I have (above) then it should be easy to see which items need stocked where.
Restocking In User Or Neopian Shops?
This really depends on the user and the need of the seasonal shop. If you are not a restocker, then, obviously you will restock from user shops. If you are a restocker, consider the amount of time you will need to spend in Neopian shops to see all the items you need to buy. And also, consider your shop! If your seasonal shop is an Easter Baked goods and sweets store, then it will be easy for you to stay in one or two shops and restock. If your seasonal shop is a Halloween store, and you want to sell sweets, furniture, goody bags and plushies, you will waste hours and hours restocking trying to find all of your items across four or five different stores.
”Mallers always have high prices – that means I can too, right?”
Wrong. Many people think mallers have ridiculous prices because they want to rip-off us honest Neopians. After running a seasonal shop for a month – I have figured out why they need to do this, and how important it is to get your pricing just right.
The Low Vs High Price Debate
Low prices mean customers, particularly low SSW (Super Shop Wizard) prices. They come for a bargain, and... that’s about it. They are not interested in seeing what else you have to sell. They will be quick in and quick out. If your prices are too low – this means it will be impossible to restock – your items will go so fast, you will spend hours a day simply buying items to put back in. This also means the chances of you finding even cheaper items to buy (unless you restock them in Neopian shops) are slim.
High prices mean fewer customers, but customers with purpose. If your price is 1000 NP higher than someone else’s, but you have five of the same item and they need three, they are likely to come to you instead of three different shops that are cheaper. A lot of Neopians are lazy creatures – remember this!
I priced my items at an average price of the SSW - usually 1-2k over the lowest. This means I didn’t have to stock too often (once a day) and as long as I did the right advertising, a steady stream of customers flocked to my seasonal wonderland.
Marketing + Customer Loyalty
So how do you get all these customers? How do you catch the attention of those who want to buy gifts for many, or those who are collecting for a gallery? And most importantly, how do you get them to come back and shop again?
With the help of a clever marketing scheme, of course! Instead of wasting 4 million Neopoints on a noticeboard advertisement (only for it to disappear in a week) why not advertise on your favourite Neoboard? It doesn’t even have to be the shops board – if your friends are there to support you, others will too.
I spent a fair amount of Neopoints on items related to my shop, which I proceeded to give to random Neopians. This helps people be aware of my seasonal shop and my good deeds. At all of my advertising boards, I kept everyone updated on how much money I had made and how many sales in total I had.
PLEASE NOTE: Do not beg. Do not tell people to buy from your shop. If your shop is good enough, and well stocked, it will speak for itself. People will come back to a shop they remember.
Help Your Customers To Help You
Offering free services like being willing to search out seasonal unbuyables and guaranteeing lowest prices, and also offering to give discount through trades if they need lots of items at once, will enable your customers to take note of your great shopkeeping skills. They will remember the services you have offered and will come back again.
Depending on how long you have your seasonal shop open (for me, it was 30 days) you need to update your shop often enough so that people won’t get bored, and that there will always be new things to look at. At the beginning, when you do your shop research, compile a list of all the items you could have in your shop. Every day, or every few days, add new items in! Let your users know of the new items you have in stock and any deals you have (perhaps have one item cheapest on the SSW for a limited amount of time).
A sale to mark the end of your seasonal shop is the perfect way to close, and the perfect way to get rid of those items that just won’t budge! Advertise on Neoboards, as always, and this time, it’s okay to price your items as low as you wish (so long as you’re still able to make profit!) Try not to restock your shop on the day before and the day of your shop's associated holiday (for example, 24th and 25th of December for Christmas shops). This will ensure you don’t have too many items to mark-down in price.
Many people don’t do this, but I found it extremely helpful to keep track of your spending. This includes stock, and upgrading shop sizes. Write it down. If you set yourself a budget at the beginning, try to stick to it. If you don’t calculate your expenditure, you could go thousands, or even millions over budget! (It’s very easy to do!) I didn’t empty my shop till for a whole month, and this helped me to track my exact profit.
This Valentines Day, I closed my shop to a whopping 2 million Neopoints profit. Following my guide, here’s hoping you enjoy the same success I have had. Good luck with your seasonal shopkeeping!