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While merchandise sales for restaurants, salons, breweries, and outdoor companies serve a strong marketing purpose during regular operating practices, they can take on a new meaning when the normal is flipped upside down.

covid closure 2 Across the country, we’ve seen the toll that the statewide shutdowns and social distancing regulations have taken on small businesses and the people that run them. Your favorite brewery down the street, or the hairdresser that always gives you the perfect cut, these are the people and places that we look forward to visiting once the world normalizes again, and that will come. But in the meantime, we’re watching how these businesses have pivoted to offer new services or push new products to cater to a changing market. Cafes, salons, and shops are turning to merchandise sales to keep revenue steams open and their businesses afloat.  

Traditionally branded merchandise holds great power in building loyalty among customers, spreading brand awareness, and marketing your products and/or services. But when many business owners were directed to close their doors to reduce the spread of COVID-19, essentially suspending their normal revenue streams, those shirts and hats began to take on a new purpose. “We have always had a retail section in our stores”, says Caitlin Unsell, owner of NEKO Cat Cafe. With locations in Seattle and Bellingham, Wa, Caitlin turned to online sales to curb some of the expenses of running multiple brick and mortar operations. “Thankfully, it’s been quite successful, and we are able to cover a lot of our expenses as a result of our online merch sales.” 

NEKO’s social media following has sparked online sales alongside their website. One of their followers went the extra mile last month featuring NEKO as a local business support target. Showing support for his local neighborhood establishments, he shared their merchandise and bought a shirt or sweatshirt for every friend that replied to his story with their selections. “We love seeing people sporting their NEKO gear and upgrading their quarantine wardrobe”, remarked Unsell. 

Another business that’s caught our eye is Bellingham Brewery 122 West. They’re using merchandise as an incentive to grow their take out food and growler sales. With every growler sale, they’re entering their customers into a raffle to win hats, shirts, and glassware. Seeing success with the program, they extended the offer through March and into April.

The crew at Elysian Brewing also used their merchandise to incentivize beer sales by offering a free shirt for the first 30 people to place an order for beer through their website. Though Elysian's distribution network spans 11 states and international territories they continue their merchandise program to boast sales and further spread their brand reach.  

Whether their merchandise is filling a gap in low revenue streams or rewarding brand followers for supporting the business’ establishments, we’re seeing that merchandise is holding great power during these rough economic times. The team at Brist has strived to be the support that our customers need at this time and to do our part to help others navigate these uncharted waters. If you’d like to see how you can leverage merchandise to not only boost your brand’s reach but also supplement your current profits, contact us today. 

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We at Brist want to continue helping this amazing community that we've created over the past 6 years, so we are sharing innovative ideas that our amazing clients have launched to help them thrive during these trying times. 

If you’ve found a solution to help your small business, please send it our way and we'll share it with our community.

Please send all questions and comments to [email protected]