Get Better At: Building your Base Through Wedding Registries

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Gift registries introduce your store to the whole guest list and offer newlyweds-to-be a better option than blenders and saute pans.

Credit: Courtesy of Ivan McGurk  The McGurks were one of the first couples to take advantage of Down River’s wedding registry.

Credit: Courtesy of Ivan McGurk. The McGurks were one of the first couples to take advantage of Down River’s wedding registry.

Two years ago, a trio of long-time Down River Equipment employees purchased the Golden, Colorado-based specialty store that aims to cover all river equipment needs, whether the shoppers are planning fishing trips, family-friendly float trips or Grand Canyon expeditions. Zach Svoboda, Down River’s co-owner and VP of operations formerly worked at REI, and watched that company launch a wedding registry years ago to great success. So he decided to follow suit and build a similar program for Down River.

“We think it’s fun, and so do the people that want to get their registrythrough us. This is the stuff they really want and the demand is definitely there for it and it certainly gets our name out there to their guests,” Svoboda says. “There’s certainly some people who would rather get a gift from Target, but I think the majority of people’s guests, if they saw somebody registered at Target and at Down River, they’re like, ‘You know what, I’m going to get the unique gift and I’m going to shop for them at Down River. This is something that they love to do and I’m going to shop at Down River because of that.’”

Couples create their registries online, but usually start with a visit to the store, where a staff member can assist them in selecting items and can even complete the registry, though most take their list home and do it themselves. Their registry is then emailed to their parents and friends, who can purchase items to be shipped directly to the couple’s home.

“I would say we got about six or so a year, which isn’t a ton, but it certainly added to our bottom line,” Svoboda says. He estimates that building a registry costs around $1,000 and took about 20 hours of staff time to plan, test and market it.

Svoboda shares the following tips for other shops looking to join the party.

  1. Aim high, but scale appropriately. Look at all the other options out there for wish lists and registries and bring it back to fit your business, web developer and budget. REI’s is held up as the Cadillac-level option, but a Taurus gets you to and from just as well—so identify the base components you need to make this functional and go from there. Upgrades could include a more robust landing page for the registry, a page for frequently asked questions and in-store bells and whistles like a scanner to add products directly to the list. Focus on making it easy to use, and keep an eye on mobile device access, he says: “People setting up a gift registry have got plenty going on for their event, so the easier and more user-friendly you can make it will definitely help them out and they’ll add more products to it.”
  2. Test, test, test. Down River Equipment's initial launch required working out some bugs with gift cards and enabling the search function to find a wedding party by either member’s name. So assume nothing about what works and do trial runs with staff before opening up to the public.
  3. Coach customers registering on how to balance big ticket items. “One of the pieces of advice I give people is, definitely put some stuff on there that you would maybe not buy for yourself because it’s a little too expensive,” Svoboda says, “But at the same time, be a little realistic. Understand who your guests are and if you don’t think you’re going to get the $500 cooler, put the $200 stove on there. It doesn’t hurt to have some high end items, but you’ll probably get more items if you put more realistic stuff on there.” Registrants can also use gift cards to pile up the funds necessary for a major purchase.

Take a look at Down River’s gift registry. Life jackets and travel coffee presses look like a lot more fun than a set of matching dinner plates.

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