Buying Advertising Display Merchandise on a Shoestring: Bargain Hunting Isn’t Only for Customers

The holidays are coming. Actually, Halloween has come and gone, which means basically that the holidays are here, at least from a commercial point of view. Retail establishments are entering the hardest part of their year – as the days outside grow shorter, retail hours grow longer and longer, right up until the January sales start. In a tough economy, competition is fierce for shoppers’ limited budgets. Consumers scour advertising for any hint of a sale or discount; retailers scramble to create innovative campaigns and incentives to draw in customers. Advertising dollars are at a premium, because more advertising (POP, retail, and even tradeshow) is being done, and more often.

What can a company do to reduce advertising and display costs while remaining competitive in the marketplace?

The answer is simple: Do What Your Customers Do. Shop for bargains. Scour your vendors’ sites for clearance display merchandise. Look for over stock sales and extreme closeouts, find out who’s offering wholesale displays at or below cost.

As a retailer and commercial enterprise, you understand that sometimes it’s necessary to turn inventory around. Sales not only bring in customers, they can reduce overhead and operating costs in the short-term. Why should the vendors you buy from be any different? In fact, they’re not different at all, they use the exact same business model as any retail establishment. Turn equals profit. And there is no reason why you, their customer, cannot take advantage of this and maximize the efficiency of your own advertising and retail budget.

There are literally hundreds of specialty stores and online portals for commercial store fixtures, wholesale retail display merchandise, POP and Point of Sale display holders and more. It’s more than likely that when your business needs advertising or display merchandise, these are the places your business shops. But there’s the rub – businesses traditionally shop for point of purchase and advertising product displays when they need them, which means they’re more than likely looking for a specific product. Yet those vendors are there all the time, their businesses run just like anyone else’s.

Which means they put things on sale. Regularly. It’s part of their business model.

How do you find these sales? Chances are that your favorite display products superstore isn’t a “bricks-and-mortar” establishment. And even if you do happen to be one of the lucky few with a wholesale display merchandise warehouse superstore just around the corner, chances are slim that they’re going to be fluttering the “sale” flag outside for their just-marked-down advertising poster enclosures. So the best way to find discount supplies – that’s polite speech for “cheap advertising display merchandise” – is to search for it. You won’t have to look very hard. It’s out there. A simple Google search will bring up a number of sites. But don’t just look at the sites – search them for the same words your own customers are scanning your site and your store for.

Discount. Wholesale. Over stock. Cheap. Closeout. Below Cost. Sale. Don’t spend a lot of time, but be creative. Combine words and phrases, search for what you want to find. “Limited time offer,” is a good one, as is “extreme” anything – “extreme closeouts,” “extreme savings,” “extreme discount prices.”

Bargain shopping for display and advertising merchandise can actually also lead to creative and entrepreneurial thinking, as well. Instead of using a full month’s budget, as planned, on a single digital display stand and a widescreen monitor, you may see an enclosure for iPads that is so dirt-cheap that you can buy one for each store entrance and still have enough left over to put iPads in them. Those 3″x8″ brochures might actually look better at 4″ x 9″ to fit in the cheap display mounts. That extra inch of text space might allow your business to include its own coupon, even. Your tattered and dated tradeshow display cover might cost more to replace with an exact duplicate than to purchase a custom-printed one in a different size. You never know with sales, that’s the beauty of it.

Another thing to keep in mind, as a consumer, is that “cheap” is not a four-letter word. Cheap is good. Inexpensive is good. Cheap and inexpensive refer to price, not quality, in most cases. As a vendor, you want to say “inexpensive,” because it sounds less… cheap. But as a consumer, cheap is the actual ideal. A bargain. As a vendor, you understand that “on sale” can often mean “we reduced our markup a tad because we’d like to sell more of these right now.” As a vendor, you also understand that “cheap” can mean “oh goodness, we need the space, let’s take a loss and get rid of these as fast as possible because we ordered a few too many.”

Shopping, and buying, like a consumer for advertising and advertising display products can be a difficult when you are yourself a vendor. Advertising is an expense item in most business budgets, and it can be only to focus on the end reason for advertising – Sales – and to forget that advertising is in and of itself something where you, and your business, are the consumer and the customer. Sure, everyone likes discounts, and tries to get the best possible prices from their vendors, but that can be a totally different animal from seeking out discount items, from actual “bargain hunting.” However, the rewards can be great. In tight economies, every penny spent counts, for your business as much as to your own customers.

So, get out there and find the deals. Hunt the bargains. Check your vendors regularly for sale items, discounts, and especially closeouts. Keep an ear to the ground and an eye on your budget – your FULL YEAR budget. Are you entering your busy season now that Halloween is gone? Perhaps if you’d taken advantage of the custom printed banners that were on sale over the summer, your business could be flying high over your own competition instead of scraping the budget for just one more sidewalk sign. Are you going to be printing more brochures for client collateral? Check the sale sites to see if a particular size holder is on sale, and print accordingly. The savings on display merchandise can allow increases in other areas (full color printing instead of 2-color, perhaps), or for additional advertising (run that display ad in the paper for two weekends instead of just one?) or purchasing power (bid on an extra set of keywords for your online ad campaign?). The possibilities are endless, and all it takes to be a smart entrepreneur is… being a smart shopper.