The start of Hurricane season is just around the corner on June 1, and that means hurricane preparedness is as well. Since 2007, the Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday has been a bonus sale weekend for many Louisiana retailers, but that changed last year. The Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday which took place during the last consecutive Saturday and Sunday each May was suspended for 2016 by the legislature due to budget shortfalls. In 2017, the holiday has been reinstated for the weekend of May 27-28, but it will only offer a 2% tax break. Consumers will still pay 3% state sales tax on Hurricane Preparation items.
The tax discount for Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday has for years provided incentive to Louisiana consumers to purchase many items recommended for storm preparation before the start of Hurricane season. This planned shopping had many advantages. Consumers were more prepared easing some of the burdens on local governments. Additionally, local retailers were able to plan their inventory and marketing plans around a set date well in advance. This not only ensured well-stocked shelves for consumers, but also allowed for more accurate sales forecasting for many retailers.
With less incentive in tax discounts for shoppers, many retailers are faced with new challenges requiring them to become more savvy at marketing to local consumers for weather related marketing campaigns.
What can local retailers do to help offset the drop in retail traffic and sales from the reduction of the sales tax discounts?
Promote hurricane preparedness in your marketing materials in advance of the hurricane tax holiday in May and again during prior to the sales tax holiday the first weekend in August. Even with reduced discounts, consumers still have some incentive to purchase those items on those weekends.
Remind consumers of the benefits of advanced preparations in your marketing materials
Offer a “We Pay the Sales Tax” discount to your customers. You can stand out from the crowd on those weekends by offering a 3% promotional discount to offset the loss of full tax discount for this sales tax holiday in 2017 for the consumer.
Provide consumers with hurricane preparedness lists on your website, your social media accounts, and in your store.
- Promote your hurricane preparedness items around weather related content.
- The Eye on Hurricane 2017 special first airs on WWL-TV on May 24 and rebroadcasts throughout hurricane season on WWL-TV and WUPL, My 54. Sponsorships for this program provide content to audiences who are actively seeking information on hurricane preparedness.
- Severe Weather Update sponsorships – These sponsorships air with severe weather updates reaching customers at the exact time they are concerned about weather related events.
- Online weather coverage – reach consumers who are online for weather information 24/7. You have several options for weather related online ads. You can choose local weather sources like wwltv.com exclusively or if you have a larger budget you can add in national weather providers like weather.com using geographic and behavioral targeting to reach only local customers who look like your customers. You can choose to advertise throughout hurricane season or can choose severe weather triggers that will activate your ads.
- Use Online Search Engine Marketing ads - you can create search engine marketing ads, which are also sometimes referred to as SEM or PPC ads. PPC refers to pay-per-click which means that you only pay for the ad when a consumer clicks on it. These ads are served on search engine results pages when consumers search for specific terms. You can create weather triggers for these ads so that they kick in during specific types of weather events. You can use geographic targeting as well.
- Create your own weather related marketing triggers for channels that you control.
- Plan some marketing messages in advance that you can post on your own website and/or blog during severe weather periods.
- Prepare signage in advance that you can use inside and outside your store during severe weather. This small investment can be reused over many seasons if you do not include dates or storm names and will make you stand out from the spray painted plywood signs many local retailers use when storms pop up quickly.
- Use social media to reach larger groups of consumers in the event of severe weather. Post the same information that you use on your website and store signage on your social media accounts. Facebook ads allow you to target additional local consumers that do not already follow your page.
- Don’t forget to email your current customers – Set up an email blast at the start of hurricane season and prepare emails in advance that you can use right before and right after severe weather to drive customers to your location.
- Prepare a quick, to-the-point, media release and media contact list that you can use to alert local media of your hours and storm related inventory as well as a contact they can reach for interviews if desired. This step does not guarantee media coverage by any means, but it only takes a few minutes to send out if you prepare in advance and ensures that news outlets have your information if they are preparing relevant stories.
Just as you remind consumers to prepare in advance, you should as well. Planning your weather related sales and marketing strategies now will ensure continuity for your business during the frenzied moments leading up to and immediately after severe weather.