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That's Entertainment

As thrill-seeking shoppers demand more bang for their buck, entrepreneurs are selling sizzle--and steak--like never before.

No longer charmed by enticements like extended hours, easy credit and no-questions-asked returns, shoppers are demanding more from their retailers these days. Conditioned to expect excitement by big-bang movies, computer games and music videos, consumers crave intense, interactive, exciting shopping experiences.

Retailers call this hot new trend "entertailing," blending entertainment with tried-and-true retail merchandising techniques.

Don't confuse this idea with the "theme" retail concept that's lost steam in recent months. Restaurants and stores built around a particular theme (such as the '50s, Hollywood or the rainforest) have seen sagging sales of late. Entertailing is simply about adding a little more zest and interactivity to your hair salon, surf shop or toy store to entice customers who would be going to one of these stores anyway to choose yours for the added excitement.

What's driving this trend of entertaining the buying public? "Americans are bored by shopping and by the sameness of merchandise," explains Howard L. Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a national retail consulting firm in New York City. "They're crying out for something different. They want a bigger thrill."

In addition, consumers have innumerable options these days: Super discount stores, mail order catalogs and the Internet give them things many independent retailers can't--the world's biggest selection or the lowest prices in town. That's opened retailers' minds to entertailing.

"This trend is gigantic. If you're in retailing, you can't ignore it," says Davidowitz. "As an independent, you can't create unique merchandise and you can't outprice a mass discounter or specialty superstore. So what's left? Drawing people in by offering your product on a different stage. Make it more fun, more educational, more interactive."

Retailers jumping on the entertailing bandwagon are reaping quantifiable results. Studies by Marketing Developments Inc., an international retail consulting firm in Cincinnati, show that a well-conceived shopping experience boosts sales from 40 to 200 percent more than the typical specialty retailer, provided the product is right, in ample supply and competitively priced.

Not quite sure how to start jazzing up your store? Learn from entrepreneurs who have perfected entertailing techniques that attract customers and keep them spending in their stores.

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This article was originally published in the December 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: That's Entertainment.

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