Swag. Merch. Goodies. No matter what you call it, there’s a universal truth about merchandise: people love it. Whether it’s a shirt, a hat, a poster, or a mug, selling branded items can be a major key to your theatre’s growing success. Offering a variety of benefits that will engage, excite, and grow your audience, merchandise should be an important part of your marketing strategy

If you’re not sure where to start, On The Stage can help. We’ll explain the reasons why merchandise is important for your business model, offer proven strategies to ensure a seamless sales process, and share tactics to sell more items, both online and in person. 

Why is Merchandise Important?

Merchandise, aside from just being great to wear or sell, has a variety of benefits for a theatre. After all, merch can: 

  • Raise revenue: The most obviously important perk of merchandise is that it raises capital for your program. Even if a patron buys one item, that money goes straight back to the theatre, helping you to create better art. 
  • Build a sense of community: Whether you’re a community theatre, educational program, professional non-equity entity, or something in between, merchandise can build a sense of unity for a common cause. Imagine walking down the street, taking the bus, or stepping into an auditorium and seeing people with branded merchandise for your theatre. It immediately creates a sense of belonging, and isn’t that what theatre’s all about? 
  • Expand your reach: Looking for easy marketing or free publicity? If not, you should be – raising awareness for your theatre is crucial. A great way to get there is by utilizing merchandise and selling it to patrons, cast members, crew, and fans. Once sold and worn, you now have a slew of walking billboards promoting your work. Even more – people are paying you to advertise your theatre. Talk about passive income that increases reach and builds buzz!
  • Drive loyalty: Branded merchandise can increase loyalty within your community without you having to use additional resources. As compared to other marketing tactics, like social media promotions and targeted email blasts, selling merchandise can ensure customer loyalty in a short amount of time. By popping on a logoed shirt or drinking out of a mug with your theatre’s image on it, you’re building allegiance with minimal effort on your part. 

How to Sell Merchandise for Your Theatre

Merchandise sales can be fairly straightforward with the right tools. Here are a few tips to ensure your numbers are tip-top from the jump: 

Create a strong eCommerce site

Creating a strong digital platform that is optimized for mobile and desktop usage is a great place to start when it comes to merchandise sales. 

Your platform should be seamless, intuitive, and easy to use. After all, people abandon their online carts for several reasons; the last thing you want is to lose a sale because your website is too clunky. Consider one- or two-click purchase options, as well as clear promotions of the merch on your show site.  

Stay cohesive 

Consider your patron demographics and decide what types of merchandise to sell. Make sure it’s aligned with your brand, makes sense to sell to your patrons, and has general value in your community. 

Confirm a design or designs early. Keep things consistent across the board; your merch designs should be the same on all marketing materials, your program, and other promo goodies. 

Pay attention to pricing

If a clunky website won’t make people abandon a digital cart, an overpriced item sure will. That said, make sure your pricing is competitive but still gains you some revenue. Consider some market research before landing on a price for different items. 

Utilize promo codes and flash deals

Marketing promotions are an excellent way to get people to buy more items. Create a sense of urgency when promoting your deals with keywords like ‘limited time offer’ and ‘act fast.’ By giving your patrons a call to action, they’ll feel more motivated to buy now

Additionally, make sure your promotions are clearly communicating what sort of deal a person is getting. Anyone is more likely to click ‘purchase’ if they feel they’re getting a discount or a great deal.  

Include merch as an “add-on” in the ticket-buying process

Generate interest in purchasing merchandise while you already have your patron’s attention… and what better time to do this than when they are already buying tickets to see your upcoming show! With a robust ticketing platform, you can easily give patrons the option to add merchandise to their ticket order upon checkout resulting in a win-win for both your theatre and. your patrons.


If you’ve already got a patron interested in your merchandise, you can increase the Average Order Value (AOV) by upselling. We know, we know – when you think of the word ‘upsell,’ you might think of a car salesman trying to get you to add a fancy finish to your new car. But upselling can be beneficial for everyone involved with the right tactics. 

A great way to upsell is by enabling pop-up encouragements to add more to the cart. Consider item pair combos for a slightly discounted rate or knocking off shipping costs or something similar if a person reaches an order total threshold. 

If presented with a good enough deal, most people will take the offer. They get more for their money, and you get more of their money. 

Offer flexible payment options

Whether in-person or online, the more methods of payment accepted for your merchandising sales, the better. You should be equipped to handle cash payments, utilize card readers, and use popular digital payment systems. 

Whether it’s online or at your booth, make sure your accepted payment methods are clearly stated to avoid a lost sale. And if you want to increase accessibility, consider partnering with a financial service to offer payment plans on orders over a certain total. 

Make connections

People are more likely to purchase merchandise from a person or brand they trust, so make sure you’re networking and making connections in your community. 

Your merchandise shouldn’t just be available online or at your show. Consider renting a booth at community events or hosting fundraisers where merchandise is sold. 

Linking up with community partners and business sponsors is also a great way to gain credibility in your area and further the reach of your offerings. 

On The Stage Tools for Selling Merchandise

You may be thinking: There are so many hassles when it comes to creating and selling merchandise, so what’s the point in even trying? Headaches can range from having to anticipate exact inventory numbers to ordering far in advance, losing money if things don’t sell, and managing inventory/storage and item fulfillment. Luckily, On The Stage (OTS) offers merchandising tools to eliminate all of these issues, making merch sales quick, convenient, and, best of all – profitable. 

With OTS, you can: 

  • Create merch on-demand: Say goodbye to the days of running out of items or dealing with unsold inventory.
  • Drop-ship directly to patrons: This way, you eliminate the need to manage inventory and find storage for unsold items. 
  • Offer a variety of item types: From sweatshirts to water bottles, totes to mugs, you’ll be able to give your patrons a wide selection when you’re selling merchandise.
  • Set your own price: This way, you can define profit, remain competitive in your area, and generate additional funding for your organization.
  • Utilize custom designs: This means that if you have your own artwork, you can personalize your merch with it! 
  • Use a library of show art: Use OTS’ database of professional show art to create your merchandise with one click, making your items look even more professional. 
  • Offer promotions: You’ll increase sales by hosting a store on your show or organization sites and include it in your show program.
  • Easily add merchandise to the ticket-buying process: With OTS, it’s easy to incorporate add-ons to your ticket sales, creating a seamless purchasing experience for your patrons.

So, what are you waiting for? Merchandising revenue awaits you! Partner with OTS today; book a personalized demo to get started.