What You Can Learn From Kilwin’s Ice Cream Shop About Attracting Customers

The place: ETR’s hometown, beautiful Delray Beach, Florida.

The time: A Saturday night in August, 8 p.m.

The scene: The town’s main drag, Atlantic Avenue. Hip shops and restaurants line the street. The sounds of live music emanate from Elwood’s BBQ and the City Limits club. Mobs of tourists and locals peregrinate up and down the street. The place is hopping.

But while most stores are packed with shoppers, a few sit nearly idle, simply because they’re ignoring basic marketing techniques.

Two stores directly across from each other provide an interesting study. The first, “The Nutrition Cottage,” is a medium-sized health food store featuring nutritional supplements, vitamins, groceries, and a juice and coffee bar. The second, “Kilwin’s Chocolates and Ice Cream,” is a small shop offering “old fashioned” candy and ice cream.

How are they doing?

Kilwin’s is almost always packed. I stood outside for 15 minutes on that recent Saturday night and counted 97 people entering the store. I crossed the street and did the same at the Nutrition Cottage. The grand total for them: 34 people during the same period of time. Kilwin’s had 285% more traffic than the Nutrition Cottage.

A quick look at the two storefronts shows why — and provides some valuable marketing lessons for any type of retail business.

The Nutrition Cottage’s front window is covered with signs announcing local events, items for sale inside, and descriptions of the various flavors of coffee and smoothies that they offer. The signs make it difficult to see inside the dimly lit store. What little you can see are jars of pills. It’s hard to tell exactly what kind of store this is or why anyone would want to go in.

From a marketing perspective, Nutrition Cottage has three problems:

1. For a location with mostly foot traffic, the front window shouldn’t be plastered full of signs. It should be empty and provide a clear view to the inside of an inviting store. They’re trying to “tell” instead of “show.”

2. They’re giving out a mixed message — and they have no USP. Is this a drugstore? A smoothie store? A coffee shop? Who knows! By trying to be all three, the message they’re sending is: “We’re not really good at anything in particular.”

3. Their front-end product (smoothies and coffee) — what they should be using to draw in street traffic (customer acquisition) — is hidden away literally in the back-end of the store. The front of the store is filled with what looks like medicine.

Directly across the street, Kilwin’s, on the other hand, is doing everything right:

1. The clean and unadorned front window looks directly onto a huge white granite slab where workers press mounds of chocolate fudge and peanut brittle mix into gourmet candy treats — in full view of passersby. A crowd inevitably gathers to watch when the staff is mixing up a new batch. The crowd gets larger and larger as more stop to see what the commotion is about. When they’re not working on a new batch of goodies, the slab is chock-a-block full of tempting finished candies.

2. Small bits of “free samples” are available right by the front door . . . to draw in those big crowds.

3. And here, perhaps, is Kilwin’s biggest secret — something you might never even notice. There’s a fan above the front door blowing the irresistible aroma of warm chocolate out the door and all over the avenue. It attracts people for blocks. No one is safe from its siren call!

Kilwin’s gets its best products out where everyone can see them. They probably bring in three times the sales of Nutrition Cottage. Who knows, maybe they net $300K instead of $100K . . . or $600K instead of $200K.

I went into Nutrition Cottage and chatted with a young couple that seemed to be in charge of the juice bar operation in the back.

“You guys could change a few little things around here and do a lot better,” I said to the young man.

“Oh yeah, we could definitely handle that!” he said, glancing at the deserted counter.

I explained to him that instead of the window featuring dreary calcium pills and outdated event announcements, they should think about moving the juice bar up to the front of the store. Bright colors! Bright lights! Fun atmosphere! Tables outside! Crowds!

“Wow I never thought of that! That’s a great idea!” He walked up front to talk to a man who looked to be the owner.

“Hey Phil, this guy just came up with a great idea. We should move the juice bar up to the front window. It’ll pull in all those people that just walk by now.”

That’s when I found out why there’s probably no hope for Nutrition Cottage.

“I don’t think so,” said the old timer. “That bar is heavy.” We’d have to move some posts. It would be a lot of work.”

He went back to whatever he’d been doing. The young man walked away, dejected. I left.

The following Monday, I opened up my copy of ETR’s Mailbox  Millionaire marketing program. It’s geared toward writing copy, but the pearls of wisdom in the course hold true for any kind of marketing. I found three particularly appropriate items:

* “Don’t talk about what the reader can plainly see in the catalog photo.”

Kilwin’s has its irresistible products in plain sight, while Nutrition Cottage uses signs posted in the window to try to promote them.

* “Describe how the product feels, smells, and sounds.”

Kilwin’s has a fan blowing out delicious aromas and offers free samples, while you can’t even see inside Nutrition Cottage.

* “Make your copy as clean and clear as possible.”

Kilwin’s sell one thing and one thing only: delicious sweets. Nutrition Cottage has a mixed message of health products, smoothies, and coffee.