Is your town still in the Dark Ages?
Remember we talked about stores being open later and how important that is? Well, Nora wrote back with an important stumbling block: it’s dark. Really dark.
Nora owns a store, the anchor for their three-block downtown area. She closes at 5 pm because there are no streetlights. Without streetlights, it’s much too dark for customers to feel comfortable after 5 pm most of the year.
“My customers do not want to shop at night,” Nora said, “and I know I lose a good deal of business….Except for three summer months, I feel like staying open and having employees to help cover is useless. Do other towns have this problem, and how have they solved it?”
Nora is asking the right question: what do other towns do? If you have addressed the “no streetlights” problem in your town, hit reply and share what you’ve learned.
In the absence of leadership by the town government, I have a few suggestions that might help.
1. Get a group together.
Are there other kinds of businesses that stay open late, or might consider it, anywhere nearby? Maybe a restaurant, bar, club, fitness place, nail salon, or something entirely different? You want to find other business owners who will work with you on your lighting project.
2. Light up a special event.
With you and the group together, consider a lighted mini-festival or special shopping event downtown. With enough light, you may be able to draw people for the special event and prove it’s worth the investment. To test this, you might try temporary exterior lights in front of your store and other participating businesses. Maybe you can hang up white Christmas lights over the sidewalk. Maybe you could borrow some portable work lights on stands, like construction companies use. Those would add a lot of light and would be inexpensive to test. Maybe have a fun theme for the event, like “torchlight parade” or something. Then if you can get customers to participate and shop, you can investigate more permanent lighting solutions.
Here are some photos of lighting alternatives for inspiration:
- LED light strands across an alley
- White light strings supplement insufficient street lights
- Paper lanterns as streetlights in Beijing
3. Ask your electric company.
My electric utility offers security lights on poles for businesses. The cost is reasonable per month, and I have one behind my store. So check with your utility. And see if others in your group will join with you getting a pole light.
I’m eager to hear your suggestions and experiences with lighting up dark shopping areas. Since we can’t all get in one room like my support sessions, you’ll have to hit reply and tell me!
Another way to draw customers during otherwise-slow evening hours came from reader Rob Hatch. He suggested a “Call ahead and we’ll have it ready” service.
Keep making your town better,
PS – My compadres as Tourism Currents put together this “How to get started with Google Analytics” guide to help you get past the “ton of info” problem and actually learn what is going on with your website visitors.
Last one, Josef Walker sent along this resource called Small Town Churches Network. It has a big emphasis on churches connecting to the community. So even if you’re not a church, remember to approach your churches as important community partners.
Several readers wrote in with suggestions:
People, like moths, are attracted to light. LED lights are cheap to run and have really come down in price. Light up the front of your store (and sidewalk) like it is daylight and people will stop just to see what’s going on. Bright lights also have the effect of chasing off cockroaches, both human and insects alike.
Remember; "Local Businesses Support Local Economies!"
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Have those businesses though to invest a small amount each to purchase a solar led light they could put on their business. If a number of them did this, then the area would be well lit.
It's really cheap! And you don't have to wait for the power company..
What has happened to several towns I've worked in it that the funds were raised privately. In one town it was $65,000 with the city and power company with a small amount of in-kind help. In another small town they did it all. In another town they did 4 blocks of main street with private denotations. IT can be done even in small towns. AND in the summer it is light until 9:00pm.
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