How to draw customers to your store for evening hours

Poster in a store window for a "Girls Night Out" event.

More evening events are bringing people downtown, but how do we get them into stores?

You’ve been hearing a lot about the need to keep your small town store open during the evenings. Your chamber of commerce is putting on more evening events. The new fitness place up the block is open late. Everyone seems to be trying to get people downtown during later hours, but when you’ve tried opening for evening hours, no one came. It’s frustrating!

One key to crack the code: evening customers will be different customers.

You’ll need to adjust your product selection and your entire approach to draw them in. That’s my take on the Time of Day Marketing research from Scott G. Dacko.

You know better than anyone else what works in your business during the day. Sadly, your many years of retail experience work against you after hours. You don’t get to just extend your current business into later hours. Succeeding in evening hours is more like starting a whole new store targeting different customers and offering different merchandise in different ways. It means re-learning a lot that you thought you knew.

How To Make It Work

Learn about them. Spend some time inside other businesses that are already open late, even unrelated ones like the fitness place or restaurant. Hang around at late downtown events like concerts and walks. Snoop. Look at who is there. Are they different from your usual customers? What do they talk about? Can you observe clues about what brands and qualities they like? Who would be a good person to talk with to learn more about what they might want from you, if only you offered it?

Your daytime ladies may love your Vera Bradley purses, but the evening gals may want Michael Kors. I don’t know, and honestly, neither do you, yet. You’ll have to do the research.

Show them they’re special. Once you know what new items you’ll be offering, you don’t want to sprinkle them throughout the store. That makes it hard for evening customers to find. You have to show your new customers they matter to you with a special display of stuff they’ll love as soon as they walk in.

Can you make a quick-change display? How about a fancy wheelbarrow full of special evening items you can roll out at 6pm. Maybe a special sidewalk display created with help from a member of that target evening demographic.

Change the mood. You may have to adapt your store’s vibe or feeling for these new customers. Are your town’s evening shoppers always starving, in a rush? Maybe offer a snack. Are they winding down, getting calm after a rushed day? Maybe soothing music is in order. Are they grabbing essentials, or browsing for fun? You won’t know until you ask. And until you find out their special needs, you can’t help them.

Making evening hours work is hard work. But the reward is renewed relevance and a better shot at surviving and thriving. Share your tricks that have worked in the comments below, or if you’re reading by email, just hit reply.
New here? Take the Guided Tour. Like what you see? Get our updates.


About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

Wondering what is and is not allowed in the comments?
Or how to get a nifty photo beside your name?
Check our commenting policy.
Use your real name, not a business name.

Don't see the comment form?
Comments are automatically closed on older posts, but you can send me your comment via this contact form and I'll add it manually for you. Thanks!


  1. says

    Rob Hatch sent this idea by email:
    I may have an errand to run but I don’t have much time, so I put it off. I would love a, “call ahead and we’ll have it ready for you.”

    I mean, what if in the liquor store, you reached out to 10-25-50 of your best customers and offered a concierge level service? We’ll have your order ready for you. No extra charge. The orders get put together on slow traffic times. Pick up between 5:30 and 8PM.

    That’s an idea any store can adapt to build their business during evening hours. Thanks, Rob!