What to do when there’s a big crowd downtown, but no one is shopping

What can businesses do when big events come downtown that require the streets to be closed?

Webster City, Iowa, is on the route of a cross-state bicycle ride. Maybe 8,000 people will get off their bikes and eat and enjoy entertainment. Because they are traveling on bikes, they probably won’t do much shopping.

The number one complaint from businesses, according to Chamber Director Deb Brown, is that this leaves nowhere in front of the stores for customers to park. It also means that the streets will be full of people that are probably not going to shop. I want to build on her suggestions to local stores.

What can small town retailers do during such big events?

1. Sell them something to consume on the spot.

Food and beverages. Massages. Jewelry they can wear now. Hats. Anything they could purchase and wear or use right away. Include activities or hands-on games people can play on the spot.

2. Ship it for them.

Let people purchase items with free shipping.

3. Put your merchandise to work at the event.

Dress volunteers with your clothes or accessories. Add a QR code that delivers them straight to your online checkout basket for that item or outfit. You could do this with clothes, gear, accessories, anything that people might see in use at an event.

4. Don’t try to make a sale. Make a connection.

If you focus on making a connection, you can layer your way into a sale. Your goal is to give them a powerful reason to join your email list, and then deliver a motivating email regularly. So you have to provide a newsletter that benefits the reader, and you have to explain the benefit before shoppers will sign up. Your reward is a chance to earn their business in the future.

5. Get involved.

Just having thousands of people in town is good whether you make a sale today or not. Your town will be more prosperous, and you’ll benefit down the road. So volunteer today to help make the event an overall success.

Keep shaping the future of your community,

PS – Not sure what to say in your email newsletter? Here are tips to get started with emailing your customers.