This article is part of a larger series on Starting a Business.
A grand opening is crucial for attracting potential customers to your storefront, raising brand awareness, and networking with local businesses. Any business that is new, expanding, or even relocating can benefit from it. In this guide, we cover 16 ideas to evoke excitement and curiosity from the community.
1. Host a Workshop or Special Event
Rather than simply opening your doors and letting customers shop, consider turning your grand opening into a true occasion with a workshop or special event. This gives potential consumers extra reason to attend your grand opening and spend more time there. A pet store might do a workshop on how to make homemade dog treats, and a sporting goods store could do free run and gait analyses.
Razer, a gaming hardware, software, and service company, held a gaming tournament for its Seattle store’s grand opening. It featured four gaming zones for streamers, gamers, and creators. It even offered customizations for its products and an unboxing station for guests who wanted to share the experience on social media.
2. Invite an Influencer
Influencer marketing is an excellent way to spread the word about your brand to a new audience. It’s so powerful that nearly 80% of brand marketers plan to use it in 2022. You can invite influencers to your opening event to build buzz, and encourage them to take and post photos using your branded hashtag before, during, and after the event. Consider a mix of well-known influencers with large followings and micro influencers who have smaller but more engaged audiences.
3. Create a Facebook Event
It’s a good idea to create an official Facebook event from your Facebook business page. Doing this will help promote your grand opening because it shows up in local searches. So if a Facebook user is looking for something to do in their local area, they may come across your event, even if they’ve never heard of your brand.
Plus, people who RSVP to Facebook events receive notifications for any posts on the event page and reminders of the upcoming event. This is a great way to stay top-of-mind and tease your upcoming grand opening.
When creating your Facebook event page, include photos and videos of the space that make it look exciting and recognizable—you don’t want anyone to have trouble finding your store. Share details about your event, including promotions, contests, entertainment, and products or services.
4. Run Geotargeted Ads
When you do a paid ad for your grand opening, you can target those in your local area. This way, you will avoid spending money on ads for shoppers located in California when your store is in North Carolina.
Facebook ads are one great medium to consider for geotargeted ads. You can promote your Facebook event page or drive users to a landing page outside of Facebook. You can also advertise on Google, targeting local searches. We break down Facebook Ads vs Google Ads to help you choose which is better for you—but you can do a combination.
5. Give to a Cause
Consumers put an increasing amount of interest in companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives—and this accelerated in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to one IBM report. It also found that sustainability is important to 84% of shoppers when choosing a brand. Plus, 62% would change their shopping habits to reduce its negative environmental impact, and more than half would even pay more to buy from “environmentally responsible” brands.
You can lean into these consumer preferences with your grand opening. Feature a charity or donate proceeds to a cause close to your and your customers’ hearts. Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market launched a grand opening to reveal its MarketFront shopping and dining area. It was hosted by the Pike Place Market Foundation, the nonprofit arm that contributes funds to local initiatives.
While the partnership in that example is more straightforward, you can apply the idea to your store, even if your brand doesn’t have a nonprofit sector. Here are some other grand opening ideas around supporting a cause:
- Invite local animal rescues and host an adoption fair at your pet shop
- Host a blood drive at your sporting goods shop
- Do a toy drive at your children’s clothing boutique
6. Offer a Giveaway
Giveaways and contests are surefire ways to lure in potential shoppers to your grand opening, and winners are likely to turn into paying customers. According to eMarketer, as many as 75% of giveaway winners would return for a future purchase. So, giveaways are not only effective at driving foot traffic to your event but also for driving sales post-grand opening. RazerStore Seattle, mentioned above, gave a free flagship product to the first person to get in line for the grand opening and even offered prizes to the first 500 in the queue.
7. Share a Map of Your Location
You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find your grand opening’s location, be it at your store or an event space. One way to do that is to provide a map and directions—and it is even better if you can show pictures of the place so that people know what to look for.
You’ll also want to make sure you’ve claimed your Google My Business page, and then ensure the information is up-to-date. Pay extra attention to the location because this is what many people click on to get directions via their GPS navigation app.
Include a link to your Google Maps location on any landing pages, webpages, emails, Facebook event pages, and other digital communications about the grand opening. Add a screenshot or an embedded Google Maps window if possible.
8. Invite a Musical Act
Entertainment drives foot traffic and places your brand in front of the act’s audience. Again, this grand opening idea turns your opening into a true event, a destination for people to seek out. If your store is in an area with high foot traffic, this is a great way to attract attention and passersby.
When Daily Basket held its grand opening, it hired a local band to play music for shoppers. If you plan to go this route, make sure you have a dedicated space with easy access to electrical outlets for your hired band, singer, or DJ. Also, ask about local permit requirements.
9. Collaborate With Other Businesses
Partnering with a fellow business for your grand opening can put your store in front of a new audience. And the options are limitless—you can invite multiple vendors to join in on your event. Much like with influencers or music acts, business collaborations put your brand in front of an already established trusting—and defined—audience.
Consider businesses that cater to a similar audience, potentially with complementary products. If you sell jewelry, you might invite a local apparel designer and a footwear brand.
10. Start With a Soft Opening
A soft opening is a great way to test your grand opening ideas before fully committing and opening to the public. Your soft opening is often smaller-scale and serves as an excellent testing and training ground for yourself and your team before the real thing.
Soft Opening vs Grand Opening
A soft opening is similar to a grand opening except it has a limited guest or attendees list. Typically, a soft opening is for friends, family, loyal customers (if you already have some), investors, and others with close connections to the business and/or owner.
Starting with a soft opening not only helps you work the kinks out but offers a chance to start building buzz and excitement for your big event. You can use the soft opening to collect photos, testimonials, and other materials to promote the grand opening.
11. “Sell” Tickets
You can use a ticketing platform like Eventbrite to offer people the opportunity to “buy” a ticket to your grand opening. In most cases, you won’t charge for these tickets. Instead, customers can RSVP by providing their email address and other basic information of your choice—so this is a great tactic to start building your email list and nurture those relationships.
Plus, many of these platforms will remind people of the upcoming event, increasing the likelihood that they’ll attend. Additionally, if you require a waiver or permissions (such as photo release forms), you can do so via your ticketing process.
12. Lure Shoppers With Signage
If you’re in an area with a lot of foot traffic, you can attract passersby with creative signage about your grand opening. In addition to your storefront sign, consider adding a banner or lights to draw extra attention to your shop and make it obvious that something special is happening.
Here are some other business sign ideas:
- Sign Spinning: If your business is located near a major traffic area (pedestrian or car), you might want to employ a sign spinner. The risk of hiring a sign spinner is that their acrobatics are the center of attention and not the business.
- Sidewalk/Chalk Advertising: This guerrilla marketing tactic is popular on college campuses and areas with lots of foot traffic. They only last a few days but can attract a lot of attention in that time span. The legality of sidewalk ads varies by location, so if you see a lot of these in a particular area, it’s probably safe to chalk up there. You should always check with your local chamber of commerce for the specific rules.
- Balloons, Banners and Signs: These fun additions can make your business look festive and attract attention.
13. Serve Food & Refreshments
Like giveaways and music, food can draw people to your grand opening. Of course, if you’re opening a food-based business, serving these items goes without saying. But if you don’t sell food or drinks, you’ll want to make sure you take all the appropriate steps.
Here are a few tips if you plan to serve food and drinks:
- Check with your local area’s guidelines around permits and food safety certifications.
- If you intend to serve alcohol, ensure you’re doing so legally. This will also likely require getting additional permits or licenses and hiring and training staff.
- Ensure that all food service is handled with the proper CDC-recommended guidelines to keep your team and guests safe, especially with COVID-19. Consider prepackaged treats since they may be safer and provide guests with the option to take them home.
Flower shop Native Poppy had a grand opening event for its San Diego store. In addition to shopping, it had space and music for dancing and served light snacks and drinks. This also made for great content.
14. Offer Discounts & Deals
Discounts and exclusive deals are great for your grand opening. Consider extending them for at least a week after the event, allowing patrons who could not make it to stop by your store to take advantage of the deals. Be sure to promote them and put the expiration date in your advertising.
15. Hand Out Freebies
You can give free gifts or goodie bags to people who attend your grand opening. You could put together small items from other local businesses, branded promotional products or, better yet, free samples of your own products. Be sure to include some reminder of your brand or event—be it a business card or printed logo.
Here are some other generic ideas:
- Branded face masks
- Ear savers
- Travel hand sanitizers
- Laptop webcam covers
- Screen cleaners
- Travel chargers
16. Write & Distribute a Press Release
A well-written and distributed press release leading up to and even recapping your grand opening can help attract attendees and shoppers. We have a comprehensive guide to help you write a grand opening press release, and you can also check out our other resources:
- Demystifying the Press Release Format (+Free Template)
- Best Press Release Examples by Type (& Why They Work)
- How to Send a Press Release (+ Distribution Tips)
2022 is a great year to start a retail business. People are slowly settling into the new normal and getting comfortable with in-person shopping again. Starting your own business is exciting, and applying one or more of these grand opening ideas is a great way to share that excitement with potential customers and make your event one to remember.