3 “must haves” to turn an ordinary sale promotion into an experience

relaxed fun space to try on suits

Beautiful suit on a beautiful girl at Popina VIP Spa Day

Popina Swimwear, in Portland OR, knows how to turn an ordinary sale promotion into a VIP Spa Day experience. Probably the least favorite shopping anyone has to do is for a new bathing suit. Let’s face it, it’s probably because the old one no longer fits and we all know what that means… To get people in the mood to try on bathing suits (yuck), Popina needs to create an atmosphere that is all about fun! They understands this better than any business I’ve visited in a long time, creating an experience worth remembering as well as a [email protected]#! promotion.

Partnering with swimwear giant, Tommy Bahama, for an annual sales event, Popina brings vacation living inside their retail store. Starting with cocktails (or mocktails), the crew at Popina’s served up fruity drinks to thirsty shoppers, chatting and relaxing with customers as if at the beach, complete with live Calypso music. I swear I could hear the ocean and feel the salt spray.

relaxing while shopping

Knot Springs Spa chair massages made shoppers feel like VIPS

Popina beach bag

Accessories naturally included

Knot Springs Spa crew liberally gave back massages, Urban Waxx did their thing and special sale items, only available on that day, made me feel like a VIP at this event!

The 3 “must haves” to turn an ordinary event promotion into an experience are: a. sensory enhancements, b. comfort zones and c. inspiring purchases.



a. Cater to all 5 senses to turn a regular sale or promotional event into something truly special.

  1. See. Depending on your products or services, themes transform an everyday room into another place, taking the shopper out of the everyday. Decorations are the first thing seen when entering a space. Sale signs are low, not in the center, though it’s not hard to find deals. Popina’s swimwear lends itself to a vacation paradise so they invested heavily inside their store on a true-to-life cabana and beach grasses throughout the store.
    like on the beach shopping

    Tiki bar cabana set up inside Popina’s store

    Realistic interior decor

    Shopping break at the tiki bar








live music adds more

Steel drummer plays Calypso music throughout the VIP sale

2. Hear. Focus on the sound that will fill up your space, either front and center or easing into the background. Whichever you decide, make the decision, don’t forget about music and just put on the radio. Keep to your theme as much as possible. Bringing in live music makes a space more vibrant, stimulating shoppers who may realize your investment. Loud, popping sounds usually deter people from staying in place very long.

smiling bartenders make everyone feel good

Bartenders serve fresh fruit drinks

3. Taste. Popina’s festooned bartenders offered delicious drinks, with alcohol or without, that transported us to the beach. Real glasses are a great touch, if you have storage room, and the budget.

Even if you don’t have the space for a large serving area, refreshments are mandatory for event promotions. Providing a sample of locally made chocolates, cheeses, jams or just about anything will be recognized and appreciated by shoppers. This is an easy way to invite partners into the promotion and increase your marketing potential exponentially.


Dressing rooms with comfortable seating

Lounge seating allows for waiting in comfort

4. Feel. Popina’s turned up the heat – literally – making it feel good in light weight fabrics. While waiting to be served employees adorned shoppers with hair flowers and lei’s. They always have a lounge for partners who may have had enough time on their feet. A kids space can turn shoppers into buyers when they are given the time to actually decide and select favored items.

shoppers become buyers with more time

Space for kids allows shoppers more time

Lighting not only illuminates products, it can make people feel excited, relaxed, energized or a range of emotions depending on color, illumines and light fixtures. Add costumes, cloaks, tiaras or get crazy with ideas to make your store feel like a different place. Remember your brand when purchasing any new items. Even if only a one day promotion, stick with the colors or shapes reminiscent of your existing marketing brand.

5. Smell. Add a scent that reminds people of your theme. I swear I smelled coconuts at Popina’s and possibly it was from the fruity rum drinks but more likely, it was an automated air freshener. Lavender is relaxing, ginger stimulating and roses not only smell good but are gorgeous! Sometimes popcorn works to get people in a mood, though might not be good anywhere around fabrics or art. Fresh air is always popular if possible!

shopping fun with drinks

Taking the time to find the right suit

b. Comfort zones are not just the physical lounge and kids areas. Think about what makes your target market comfortable, especially in how they will use your product or service. Try to give them that experience in your store.

Shopping can be fun

Popina sales crew help to find the best fit

Popina’s takes the guessing out of bathing suit shopping with incredibly knowledgeable sales staff. Their products are designed to fit women and men, not just look great (though they do that too). Dressing rooms have erasable white board signs attached, literally giving over the room to the shopper by putting her name on it. That little act alone takes the pressure off the time it takes to find the perfect suit. Though Popina’s was hopping during VIP Spa Day, no one was rushed through their buying decision process.



c. Last, but not least important, is to provide inspiring purchases.

extra finds rewards shoppers

Out of way sale corner

I was met at Popina’s entry and given the skinny where I could find Tommy Bahama’s sale stuff, Popina’s deals, where I could get the coveted back massages, drinks and more! It seemed like he was helping me find my own good deal while being shown the best stuff to choose from.

easy to upsell with discounts

Discounts with purchase

Fabulous products only offered on sale day will fly out the door. Extra bonus discounts on complimentary goods and reward points, coupons, offers go a long way to increase buys. Use every part of your store to create special sales areas.

Take away shopper’s fear of decision making by hosting events in your business, focusing on adding food, drinks, music and fun and make an experience worth remebering.

About Bridget Bayer

Bridget Bayer is an author and community organizer working to create vibrant main street business districts that support local economies. Bridget believes shared activities are a catalyst for positive change. Her professional work fosters community involvement by creating shared events that enhance communication, develop shared interests and support existing and start-up non-profit organizations. At home, Bridget focuses on innovative ecological practices, hates waste and dependably finds ways to eliminate it. After 25 years in the restaurant industry, she still loves to cook especially with locally sourced veggies including those homegrown from her garden. Bridget, the first mate on Ama Natura, lives on a floating home on the Columbia River in Portland with Peter Wilcox, instigator of the Inside Passage Decarbonization Project, and the lovely Luna, her favorite cat.