Summer is the perfect season for consumers. For retailers, however, the story is a little different. A classic nationwide summer slump in sales—like the most recent one in June, with a 1.1.% decrease (higher than the original 0.3% estimate by experts)—can be credited to customers spending on outdoor activities and service-based businesses every year.
Anything including sporting events, festivals, outdoor dining, concerts, vacations, travel plans, or picnics tends to take priority over shopping. But a summer season doesn’t have to equal summer revenue. With a few summer sales strategies, you can be well on your way to either maintaining or surpassing your historical summer revenue.
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Importance of summer marketing and summer sales
There are two big reasons summer marketing is critical: to offset slow sales months and set your store up for a successful winter season.
Offset slow sales months
Without some planning, it may be hard to offset the inevitably slower sales months that tend to happen in the summer.
Studies suggest retail sales can be affected by the weather anywhere from 23% to 40%.
Set store up for successful winter
The better your summer cash flow, the better positioned you’ll be to enter the winter season. With the cash generated through the summer months, it’s easier to plan for holiday specials and winter inventory. You’re also better positioned to make up for all the days you’ll close to observe federal holidays.
When to start summer marketing
Staying ahead in the retail space takes planning for the upcoming quarter during the current quarter. To execute a successful summer marketing campaign, it’s critical to start thinking about strategy and sales plans during the first quarter and spring season.
For instance, if you’re planning on stocking inventory with items you know entice your audience to buy during the hot months, you’ll need to plan for the order with enough foresight to ensure your supply chain can deliver the goods on time.
It would be detrimental to your P&L sheet if you ordered summer umbrellas that ended up arriving in late October due to poor scheduling.
As you plan for summer marketing, pay attention to consumer trends within your niche. Referring to historical sales records can also help you plan to run special sales or stock shelves with items that sold well the previous year.
A one- to two-month headstart can make a difference in the success of your summer marketing campaigns. It’s ample time to plan for delays, create strategies with cash flow in mind, and get the word out about upcoming deals to early-bird shoppers.
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Keys to a successful summer marketing campaign
- Understand your audience
- Set clear goals
- Account for major holidays
Let's examine each of these factors more closely.
Understand your audience
Understanding your audience always leads to bigger basket sizes and higher revenue numbers. For example, some customers like to plan and do their summer shopping during late winter or early spring.
This can be a chance for you to win those sales by setting up early summer sections. Consider setting up summer end caps to replace the previous seasonal items before summer starts to capture more of those sales.
Set clear goals
Setting clear goals a month or two before summer starts is a critical part of seeing ROI from your summer marketing efforts. This may involve scoping out specific calendar days, scheduling product deliveries ahead of time, or scheduling days to reorganize your shelves and set your end caps.
Setting revenue goals and breaking them down by week and month can also be a helpful way to keep a finger on how your sales efforts are performing. If something isn’t working, you’re able to pivot quickly to meet your predetermined goals.
There are plenty of ways to set retail sales goals that are achievable and realistic. These can include using the SMART goals technique, focusing on improving AOV, or aiming to decrease return rates.
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Account for major holidays
Holidays are some of the best days to run sales and special promotions. Customers get a day off and a lot of them take this time to shop or spend time outside.
Whether you run holiday-themed sales or sell holiday-specific items, consider planning for each of the summer holidays, including:
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Father’s Day
- Memorial Day
READ MORE: These types of holidays that present opportunities for retailers aren't limited to summer. Read our post on important retail holidays to learn more.
Summer marketing ideas
- Host a summer celebration
- Leverage social media to create awareness
- Create summer window displays
- Collaborate with other retailers
- Sell to tourists and travelers
- Create special products for the summer
- Meet your customers outside
- Host summer contests
- Participate in local festivals and fairs
- Offer more deals on items that aren’t selling
- Offer product bundles
- Create summer end caps
- Provide summer coupons
- Give out samples
- Launch a summer points program
- Plan a pop-up shop
- Host a trade-in promotion
- Launch a summer subscription club
- Create themed offers
- Leverage store gift cards
Let's take a closer look at each of these ideas to see which might work for your store.
1. Host a summer celebration
People are out and about during the summer, so host an event and invite them to stop by your store or pop-up shop. Offer a free class or product demonstration. Tap your vendors and hold a trunk show. Or throw an ice cream social and get to know your community and customers over sundaes or cones.
The kids are out of school, so be sure to consider every member of the family with activities or gifts to keep children happy and entertained.
NEXT STEPS: Learn how you can create community and build trust by hosting an event series.
2. Leverage social media to create awareness
While shopping habits might take a vacation during the summer, social media posting doesn’t. It’s often in full force as customers post their vacation, graduation, and holiday pictures.
Create a robust social media schedule to increase your visibility. While users are browsing their friends’ posts, they’ll see yours and be enticed to shop.
NEXT STEPS: Read more about which social channels will work best for your retail brand.
3. Create summer window displays
Turn your location into a shopping “vacation” by dressing your windows and ecommerce site for the season.
If you can relate your products to things customers do during the summer, you can become an important part of the season.
For example, booksellers can put a lounge chair in the window with suggestions for beach reads. Or a home accents store can show off patio décor. Keeping your display fresh gives customers new reasons to shop.
NEXT STEPS: Here are 10 unique window displays to help you brainstorm ideas for your own. Or, if you're already thinking about the holidays (high five for being so prepared!), check out Holiday Window Display Ideas, Inspiration, and Best Practices for Retail Stores.
4. Collaborate with other retailers
Sometimes two heads are better than one. Join forces with another retailer that serves the same audience and brainstorm events or sales you can do together. Distribute coupons to each other’s stores. Or create a special package.
For example, a bakery and a deli can team up to create a boxed picnic lunch for both sets of customers.
NEXT STEPS: Learn how to bolster sales with partnerships and co-sponsored events.
5. Sell to tourists and travelers
If your city gets a good amount of tourists during the summer, promote your store to visitors. Bring flyers to your local welcome center. Contact tour companies and create an exclusive offer for their customers. And make sure your company is listed on Yelp and Google.
More than three-quarters of travelers use review sites when planning their vacation.
NEXT STEPS: Here’s how you can optimize your Google Business Profile and encourage customer reviews.
6. Create special products for the summer
Limited edition products can create a buzz in your store. Starbucks, for example, offers summer-only food items as well as specialty coffee blends. In 2017, it partnered with clothing designer Lilly Pulitzer to create a limited edition water bottle that flew off the shelves.
You can create a special “Summer of 2022” collectible, and make it an annual tradition.
NEXT STEPS: Read more about sourcing products for your retail store.
💡 PRO TIP: Want to create beautifully branded emails to promote your next product launch? Use Shopify Email to create, send, and track campaigns, all from within Shopify—no coding experience required.
7. Meet your customers outside
Your shopping experience doesn’t have to start and stop at your storefront’s threshold. Instead, try extending your shop outdoors.
If possible, host a sidewalk sale to grab your customers’ attention as they drive or walk by. If your location gets lots of foot traffic, consider putting a water bowl out for pets. Their owners will appreciate the gesture and window shop as they pause in front of your store.
NEXT STEPS: Learn how to choose the right events for your in-person sales.
8. Host summer contests
Everyone loves to win something, so brainstorm some contest ideas that spark word-of-mouth advertising.
Give away raffle tickets for a free prize to people who come to your store. Have a photo contest, asking customers to share their vacation pictures or photos of pets or kids on your Facebook or Instagram page. Give a prize to the photo that gets the most likes. Or you can create an online giveaway that encourages customers to visit your physical store.
NEXT STEPS: Read our guide on creating retail contests that convert and check out our list of 14 giveaway and contest ideas to get you started.
9. Participate in local festivals and fairs
During the summer, many cities have festivals and fairs, and retailers can often rent a booth. Look into the events in your area and see if you can participate. Not only will you be where your customers are, but you’ll also get exposure to new shoppers who may not be aware of your business.
NEXT STEPS: Our guide to nailing the in-person selling experience can help retailers ensure their first offline sales events are successful.
10. Offer more deals on items that aren’t selling
Summer is known for sales, and for good reason: they draw out customers who are looking for good deals. If it makes sense for your brand, create a promotion calendar with discounts, special offers, coupons, gifts, and/or bundles.
If you don’t already have a loyalty program, start one and consider giving double credit on certain days of the week.
NEXT STEPS: Learn more about how to move more merchandise with the science of sales and create your customer loyalty program.
11. Offer product bundles
Product bundling is a smart strategy to reel in more sales year-round. In the summer, consider creating product bundles with a mix between your best and lowest selling items to ensure you’re moving products off your shelves. Experiment with creating a mix-and-match bundle option or a buy-one-get-one offer.
NEXT STEPS: Learn more about the specifics of product bundling and how to create your strategy.
12. Create summer end caps
End caps are a great opportunity to catch those last-minute shoppers who love a good deal. They’re some of the most visible spots to stock your best summer products. Consider reserving end caps in the summer for your highest margin products to increase revenue.
NEXT STEPS: Learn all about retail product displays to optimize your store for more revenue.
13. Provide summer coupons
A strategic coupon can bring in more sales and grow customer loyalty. Whether you offer them weekly or monthly or offer them all summer, make sure you remind your customers about your coupon offers.
Some ideas include:
- First-time shopper coupons
- Referral promotions
- Minimum purchase coupons
- Coupons in exchange for reviews or social media follows
NEXT STEPS: Look through all the ways you can create coupon codes and discounts and use them to increase your summer revenue.
14. Give out samples
You don’t have to be Costco to take advantage of a revenue-driving strategy like giving out samples. And you don’t have to sell food to do it either. Especially for smaller everyday use items, giving out samples can be a way for your customers to get familiar with other product options.
Retailers in the personal care items, homeware, makeup, and supply niches can get creative with product sampling.
NEXT STEPS: There’s plenty of science behind why free samples are so effective when it comes to increasing sales. Get filled in on how freebies keep customers coming back.
15. Launch a summer points program
Growing up, there was a local ice cream shop in town that gave you your 10th vanilla ice cream cone for free. You kept track of it by getting a specific shape punched into a card you kept on your keychain.
In the same way, retailers can provide a summer points program that earns their customers a free item at the end. Many customers love the challenge of acquiring points to earn something at the end. Especially if your products tend to need replacement every so often, this strategy can work to increase sales.
NEXT STEPS: Gather ideas on all the different ways you can launch points and loyalty programs in a way that works for your store.
📌 GET STARTED: Choose from hundreds of loyalty apps in the Shopify App Store and start rewarding shoppers for purchases they make both online and in-store.
16. Plan a pop-up shop
Pop-up shops are a great way to meet your customers where they’re already hanging out. This can mean setting up pop-up shops in local malls, community events, or special holiday functions.
Catching a handful of additional sales can take setting up shop with a portable POS system.
NEXT STEPS: Having trouble thinking through how you go about creating a pop-up shop? Check out this complete pop-up shop guide for additional tips.
📌 GET STARTED: Shopify POS is the fastest way to accept in-person payments, sell at events, or open a pop-up shop. Download the Shopify POS app onto any smartphone or tablet and rent a mobile card reader to start selling wherever your customers are.
17. Host a trade-in promotion
If you sell items that can be recycled, run a trade-in promotion. Much like online retailer Lululemon lets you trade in your old gear, you can run a trade-in offer in exchange for a discount to increase foot traffic, which will ultimately increase sales.
The more people you have coming into your store to participate in the trade-in and get a discount, the more your chances of selling additional items.
NEXT STEPS: To let more customers know about your trade-in promotion, consider direct-mail promotion to get local customers to participate.
18. Launch a summer subscription club
Subscriptions don’t only happen online. If it makes sense for your retail store, creating a summer subscription club can help you count on incoming cash every month (or even week).
Subscriptions work best for retailers that sell repeat-buy items. While it can work great for restaurants, it can also work for retailers that sell a lot of summer-specific items during warmer weather.
NEXT STEPS: Setting up a subscription club takes a bit of upfront work. Learn more about the best way to automate the process.
19. Create themed offers
Much like a countdown at New Year’s, consider creating themed offers that are only available on specific days. This is where you can get creative with the theme depending on the products you sell.
For instance, an outdoor gear store can theme each sale day by the type of outdoor personas they sell to, including the rock climber, the cyclist, the biker, or the cave diver. The more creative you are with your themes and what goes on sale each day, the more attention-grabbing your promos will be.
NEXT STEPS: Learn the psychology behind selling more and apply them to each of your offers.
20. Leverage store gift cards
Does your store accept gift cards? Sell summer-themed gift cards at the checkout counter and include them in any special offers when possible. Gift cards are a great way to gain new customers and keep existing customers coming back.
NEXT STEPS: Read about what it takes to set up and generate revenue from store gift cards.
💡 PRO TIP: With Shopify POS, you can sell physical and digital gift cards that can be redeemed both in store and online. Sell physical gift cards in store, email digital gift cards to customers, and let them redeem their gift card wherever they prefer to shop.
Summer sales ideas
- Holiday sales (e.g., 4th of July)
- Temperature-based sales
- Run a special offer for locals
- Give discounts and sell at local sporting events
- Set up a discount outdoor shelf
Consider these summer sales ideas for your retail business.
1. Holiday sales (e.g., 4th of July)
It’s common knowledge that holidays are a great time for special offers, discounts, and promotions. Consider creating a themed holiday sale that either bundles relevant products together or offers holiday-related items at a discount.
2. Temperature-based sales
Hotter climates call for relieving purchases. Take advantage of hotter days to run sales promotions on specific items.
3. Run a special offer for locals
Chances are locals form a big part of your loyal customer base. Running a special offer for locals can be a great way to say thank you and reward them during the hotter months.
All they have to do is show their identification to prove they’re local to access your special offer. It’s an easy way to keep your closest customers engaged and excited to come back for more.
💡 PRO TIP: With Shopify, you can get your products found by more nearby shoppers looking for what you sell on Google. List your products on Google for free, show pickup availability to increase store visits, and measure how your listings impact store sales from Shopify.
4. Give discounts and sell at local sporting events
Tailgates and local sporting events can be a great place to sell your product if it makes sense and is relevant during the summer months. This might take partnering up with the local shops schools will often host at each sporting event.
You may be able to set an end cap or checkout display with your items for sale so they’re displayed where they get the most foot traffic.
5. Set up a discount outdoor shelf
Summer is synonymous with the outdoors. Consider creating an outdoor shelf or display area for discount or special offer items you’d like more of your customers to see.
The front of your store is an area that gets some of the highest foot traffic. Take advantage of that by placing relevant items outside during the summer months.
💡 PRO TIP: With Shopify POS, you can create dollar or percentage discounts that get automatically applied to individual items or entire carts at checkout. Once you set up an automatic discount, it works for both online and in-store purchases.
Improve your retail summer sales
There’s no shortage of summer marketing ideas retailers can run to improve their revenue during the summer. The more you experiment and strategize with summer sales every year, the more historical data you’ll have to look back on to see what works for your store and within your industry.
As you plan your summer marketing efforts, don’t forget to work ahead of schedule. That way, your marketing efforts aren’t delayed and your offers are promoted on time.
Increase store foot traffic with Shopify
Shopify comes with built-in tools to bring more online shoppers to your store. Manage your Google Merchant Center listing without leaving your point of sale, show each product’s availability across all store locations, offer in-store pickup, and more.