It's October, Prepare Your Merchants for Your Next Festival

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When special events are well planned and well executed, their very presence reaffirms that the downtown is the focal point of the community. Exciting, enjoyable special events contribute to the appeal and image of the downtown. They create additional reasons for people to visit your Main Street again or for the first time.
 
Why do we have special events downtown? First, they bring thousands of people to the commercial district. With so many visitors, the opportunity for your merchants to generate extra income is greatly increased. This is a day-of-event benefit.
 
Second, special events allow visitors to see all that downtown has to offer. While not everyone who attends an event will go shopping, they will all be looking—looking at the stores, restaurants, and services your downtown district has to offer. If they enjoy themselves during the event, they are more likely to return and shop or dine in your district. This is an after-event benefit.

Third, successful events get people thinking about downtown as a destination for shopping, food, and entertainment, instead of a place they pass through on their way to somewhere else. This is a long-term goal.
 
But you need to get your business owners on board to achieve these goals. Here are seven tips that can alleviate many of the concerns some merchants have with festivals and show business owners how to turn every event into a positive experience for all.
 
Plant the seed. A few weeks in advance, start to raise awareness of the event. Tell your customer base about any special activities you are planning to coincide with the event. Remember, people are drawn by activity. The more of your current customer base you can draw into your store, the better chance you have of attracting some new ones. If people look through your windows and see customer activity, they are more likely to be come in to see what’s going on and what you have for sale.

Print Fliers and advertise. Advertise the in-store specials you’ll be offering during the event. Place fliers in customers’ bags a few weeks before the event to tell people about the festival and what your business is planning to do.

Work your contact list. Take advantage of your customer contact list. Contact lists give you the opportunity to market and advertise to your customer base at little or no cost. Send out an e-mail to tell customers about the event, inform them of the specials you’re offering that day, and perhaps provide a coupon that is valid only during the event. Staying in contact with your customer base makes them feel valued.

Print coupons. Get your coupons printed up. They can be put in customers shopping bags, along with promotional flyers or sent as an e-mail attachment to your customer contact list.

Set up cross-promotions with your neighbors. This is a great way to maximize each other’s customer base. Encourage merchants who sell products or services that are complimentary to join forces and pass out flyers and coupons that promote each other’s merchandise.

Remain open. You can't make any sales if your store isn’t open! Even if the people attending the special event don’t regularly shop with you, they could be potential customers. How much money would you have to spend out of your advertising budget to attract 35,000 potential customers? The hard part has been done of attracting them downtown; don't shoot yourself in the foot by closing early or not opening at all. Use somebody else's advertising budget to your advantage.

Use sidewalk sales to draw attention. Use sidewalk sales to help grab the attention of event patrons. This is a good opportunity to get rid of sale merchandise. When they come into your store to pay for the items, you have an opportunity to make additional sales.

The holiday season is almost upon us. Make sure your Main Street businesses see the benefits and take advantage of your holiday events.