How Retailers Can Take Advantage of the Summer Travel Season

Summer travel shopping | Shopify Retail blog

The summer travel season is in full swing. And while this is a boon for the hospitality and tourism industries, of course, what about the retail industry?

Yes, the busy summer travel season can benefit far more than just hoteliers and tourist destinations. Retailers can get in on all the tourism spending during this time of year as well. So, whether your retail business is primarily online or also has brick-and-mortar locations, there are ways to take advantage of the summer travel season and all the potential customers that come with it.

Here, we’ve rounded up how you can take advantage of this seasonal spending and offer eager merchants some examples of retailers who are already doing it well.

Understand your Audience

Figuring out how you can leverage the summer travel season to better serve your current customer base or attract new customers means understanding your audience.

Know your buyer personas inside and out — what your customers are looking for, what they enjoy about your products and services, and how they prefer to do their shopping is all essential information you can use to attract tourists with the same interests and preferences.

Bring the Indoors Outside

Ralph Lauren, summer window display | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Pinterest

Use this knowledge of what works with your customers to create visual merchandising displays that catch the eye of passersby — foot traffic tends to increase during the warmer months with both locals and tourists. Some ideas for you to steal include:

Some ideas for you to steal include:

  • Sidewalk sale: Place several racks or tables of sale merchandise on the sidewalk area outside of your physical storefront. Passersby will see some of your great products and are more enticed to see what else is inside your store.
  • Seasonal POP products: Optimize your point-of-purchase displays with seasonal items to encourage impulse buying. Revamp those key areas around your checkout counters with items like chapstick/lip balm, sunscreen, moisturizer, hats, etc.
  • Update window displays: Use this key retail real estate to lure shoppers through your doors. Create a summer- or travel-themed window display, or curate a compelling visual collection of relevant products.

Take advantage of the warmer weather and push your store outdoors with display tables or racks to show off your most popular items or to promote products that are on sale.

In the article 5 Ways to Boost Your Retail Sales This Summer, industry blog Small Business Trends states: “More than just window signs, which are easy to ignore, use signage that juts out onto the sidewalk or walkway so it can’t be missed. Tie a few balloons to a sidewalk easel promoting a sale or new summer merchandise. Also consider putting out water bowls for dogs so their owners will stop a moment in front of your establishment to refresh their pets.”

Refresh Your Shelves With Summer Products

You can even create seasonal or limited edition products that cater to summer travelers and tourists. In the article 13 Summer Retail Marketing Tips To Heat Up Sales, Forbes suggests: “Take Starbucks’ Lilly Pulitzer water bottles as an example. The bottles flew off the shelves as soon as they were available this past spring.”

Although you may not have the opportunity to partner up with a major brand like Lilly Pulitzer for your own special product, you can certainly design a line of seasonal products (mugs, stationary, or whatever makes sense for your brand)  through CafePress, Vistaprint, or Printful that will appeal to your shoppers. 

To build buzz around your seasonal products, consider hosting a contest or giveaway and ask your customers to submit designs to be featured on limited edition merchandise. Getting your loyal customers involved keeps them invested and engaged in your brand while also crowd-sourcing ideas for designs that customers actually want.

Give Customers a Unique Experience

As well as offering unique products to attract new customers in the summer months, you should think about creating unique experiences and ways for them to interact with your brand once they’re in your store. In the article Travel Trends Could Bring Shoppers Back to Brick and Mortar, Nicole Reyhle of Retail Minded states: “Whether that is an in-store demo/class, a take-home trial, an on-site expert or something completely your-own, know that consumers will travel for experience, not for product.”

You can create custom displays so prospective customers can try out your products, host events with food and/or prizes where attendees have the chance to check out your merchandise, or consider launching a pop-up shop in a new neighborhood that’s popular with summer tourists. 

Pop-up shops are also a great way for online retail businesses to take advantage of the summer travel season and the tourists that come with it. Not sure how to get started with temporary retail? Check out our definitive guide: Ultimate Guide to Pop-Up Shops

Encourage Customers to Stay in Your Store

Once you’ve enticed passersby into your store, you’ll want to keep them in your aisles with your products for longer to increase the chances of making a sale.

Nicole of Retail Minded suggests: “From the music playing in your shop to the seating areas you choose to offer, understand that comfort and aesthetics are key to keeping customers in store once they arrive.”

You can use a variety of other tactics to get customers to stick around longer, including:

  • Offer free Wifi
  • Set up a juice bar/bottled water "pop-in" to give refreshments to customers
  • Optimize your store layout to make your merchandise easily discoverable
  • Set up a clearance section at the back of your store (customers love rifling through these areas in search of good deals)
  • Set up in-store product demonstrations

Forge Smart Partnerships

Another great way to reach new people during the travel season is to partner with other great brands.

By working with brands that share a common audience, there is a chance for both businesses to benefit by increasing their reach.

Forbes offers some sage advice on the subject: “Pick a retailer that is geographically close to you or that serves the same audience and create a combined sale, event, or simply join forces on a mailing to both your customer lists. Offer a discount for shopping at your partner store, just as they offer a discount to their customers to shop at yours.”

Obviously, partnerships offer the benefit of sharing customers, but also the workload. Join forces to co-market a line of products you both create, set up a sponsored summer event, or execute a giveaway for fans of both brands.  

Examples of Retailers Doing it Well

While plenty of companies are taking advantage of tourist traffic to boost their sales or brand awareness, let’s take a look at a few specific examples to help inspire some ideas for your business.

West Elm

West Elm hotels, summer travel shopping | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: CN Traveler

Synonymous with modern furnishing and stylish designs, West Elm is a successful home decor retail company. When the retail giant was looking to branch out and reach their audience in new and exciting ways, they got creative and announced a group of West Elm hotels that will be opening in 2018.

These luxury hotels have the potential to reach a new audience because they’re opening in areas without a strong West Elm retail presence. Visitors to the hotels will stay in rooms furnished with West Elm products, but sales of furniture is not the primary objective of the hotels. “Everything is about that guest experience,” said David Bowd (a West Elm Hotels principle) “Our tagline has been whole-hearted hospitality.”

By providing a great experience for all guests and a comfortable stay, West Elm builds brand awareness and a stronger reputation. They also increase the chance that customers will enjoy their products after testing them out during their hotel stay and will make a purchase.


Equinox hotel | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Equinox

Like West Elm, luxury fitness brand Equinox is also opening a chain of fitness hotels to increase their reach. With an engaged and dedicated audience, Equinox is entering the hospitality market to create a comfortable home away from home where members can still focus on their fitness goals.

Hoping that their hotel business will eventually match the success of their fitness business, Equinox is attempting to leverage their knowledge of their audience to fulfill their needs while they travel.

Moving Forward With Summer Travel Sales Tactics

Has your brick-and-mortar retail store seen a boom during high travel seasons? If so, what do you contribute the success to? Let us know in the comments how your business has profited from summer travel season.