Bakers Journal


December 3, 2007
By Michelle Brisebois

Michelle Brisebois offers advice for bringing theatre into the bakery.

When Shakespeare said, “all the world’s a stage,” he could easily be referring to our businesses too. Product, price and good service alone aren’t going to draw consumers to your bakery, these things are simply the cost of entry and it’s expected that you will provide them. For most consumers, shopping is no longer a chore, it’s become a leisure activity. In the process, some retailers have started to raise the bar, offering everything from live music to in-store seminars. Dubbed “retail-tainment” or “shopping-tainment,” these points of differentiation add sizzle and excitement while defining the retail brand. It’s not just about the “flour and the glory,” it’s one of the most effective ways to drive profitability.

Retail-tainment is about making the act of shopping as interesting as the merchandise, and it’s a big trend. The logic behind this strategy is that the more enjoyable the experience, the longer people will stay in the establishment and the more money they will spend. Surveys confirm that engaging retail-tainment events hold shoppers’ attention an average of two minutes, versus the average 10-second window seen in tests of passive sampling. In a 2001 survey of 124 marketing and sales executives conducted by Intellitrends, 47 per cent said that events provide the best return on investment of any promotional tactic, topping advertising (32 per cent), sales promotions (29 per cent), and public relations (15 per cent). Chapters and Starbucks are great examples of this trend by offering live music, tastings of new products and signings by authors. The bakery industry could tap into the retail-tainment trend in a variety of ways. Here are some you may want to consider giving a try:

Bake in front of them: Don’t hide the cake decorating behind closed doors – bring it out front where customers can see it. People are fascinated by this art form and it’ll increase the time they spend in your bakery. Create some whimsical humorous items. One bakery in the U.S. created and displayed a “redneck gingerbread house” which not only made customers chuckle but also brought new customers into the shop just to see it.


Hold lectures in the store: The list of possible topics is endless: the history and cultural origin of various bakery items; unique flavour combinations; food trends; how to blend store bought bakery items with a homemade meal. Why not partner with a sommelier and pair your bakery items with some wonderful wines? Rumour has it that espresso brownies taste great with merlot!

Play music: Create your own music mix of tunes built around a theme. Nothing generates an artisan bakery vibe faster than some “Parisian” tunes. Soothing jazz relaxes people and puts them in a “weekend frame of mind” any time of day and a mellow customer is one who won’t rush out of the store. One study of the effectiveness of music in a national chain of supermarkets showed that the use of slow music increased sales over the use of fast music. Shoppers stayed in the store longer and purchased more – a lot more. The average gain was 39.2 per cent (R.E Milliman, J. Marketing).

Bring kids into the store : One savvy jewelry storeowner invited his son’s second-grade class in to see his goldsmith at work, look at gems under a microscope and hear about how they’re cut. Although the kids didn’t buy anything, every one of them took home a shopping bag with the store’s name on it containing a piece of rock crystal, along with stories about their trip to that cool jewelry store. Why not send each small visitor home with a cupcake for his or her parent?

Host a ladies night: Consider partnering with complementary businesses for a gala evening. Decadent baked goods were often mentioned on the T.V show “Sex and the City” (cupcakes and brownies in particular).

Create a New York theme around fashion and fashionable food by partnering with a clothing store and perhaps a local caterer who can weave your baked goods into their menus. You may wish to have the proceeds go to a womens’ charitable cause. It would be a win/win all the way around.

Have a contest: Ask people to submit stories about the most memorable dessert they’ve ever eaten, and publish the top five (giving each a prize). This type of initiative will not only create some buzz around your store, it will remind people why delicious baked goods are important.

Retail-tainment is just a marketing buzzword for “event marketing.” It is however becoming a more popular tool than traditional advertising. Even the most obscure product or service can benefit from a dash of showmanship and if you think about who your customers are and what gets them excited, you can create wonderful events to get them to spend more time in your bakery. This inevitably translates into spending more money with you. Walt Disney is the pioneer of business as theatre and we’d be wise to remember his thoughts on the subject. He once said, “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park (Disneyland). I want them to feel they’re in another world.”

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in helping companies grow their brands. Michelle can be reached at OnTrend Strategies by e-mail at:

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