Promotion Sells Business Owners If Not Their Wares

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Who says America isnt a nation of gamblers? Offer a chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree and a romantic stay at a top-rated hotel and even the early arrival of wet, winter temperatures cant dampen that roll-of-the-dice spirit.

That was the consensus from the 50 business owners that participated in Alexandrias initial Boutique Week from October 10 to 18 in an effort to boost local business receipts. They came, they saw, they shopped, they collected the proof of their efforts, and now they wait.

Those who participated had until October 22 to turn in their stamped entry forms [to enter the contest], said Stephanie Brown, president and CEO of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association, which sponsored the event to bring shoppers to Alexandria. We will make the drawing and notify the winner on Friday.

ACVA distributed 35,000 shopping guides throughout the city to lure shoppers to Old Town and Del Ray, Brown said. But while shop owners deemed the initiative a positive step for a first effort, some could not pinpoint a monetary result, even if it constituted a win in terms of getting people into their shops and developing potential new customers.

A lot of people came in merely to get their stickers for the drawing, said Amanda Lasker, owner of Gossypia at 325 Cameron St. Most didnt buy anything but at least they now know where we are and I expect many will be back.

It was a great way to get exposure, she said.

Eric Nelson, owner of Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections, Alexandrias premier chocolatier and cocoa bar and Artfully Paper, both in Del Ray on Mount Vernon Avenue, felt It was a good first effort. He experienced at least $40 worth of purchases that might not have occurred otherwise and estimated a 10-percent increase in sales. He was also very happy that Del Ray merchants were included in the promotional effort.

Many customers who came in made small purchases, Nelson said. In our case, the weather actually helped us at ACKC. Many came in to get some hot chocolate to warm up from the cold rain the later part of the week.

Most participating merchants were offering discount specials of their products ranging from 10 to 25 percent depending on the amount spent. However, most said that customers were more interested in getting the stamps for the drawing than making large purchases.

One shopkeeper who did see a marked increase in sales he attributed to Boutique Week was Joe Egerton, owner of Arts Afire Glass Studio at 1117 King St. It went very well, he said. Especially at the first part of the week before the bad weather.

Egerton reported sales about $5,000 over his studios normal volume.

The first four days were very dynamic, he said. And I would say about half of those customers were new to our store. Many said they were doing some early Christmas shopping.

Two who viewed the week a real success were Fay Carter, owner of The Christmas Attic at 125 S. Union St., and Melinda Lynam, owner of Mondays Child, 218 N. Lee St.

We had people come in from out of town even with the bad weather, Carter said. And, our sales were good for the week. However, I look on this as building a long term relationship.

Lynam said, It went very well. We had people come in we have never seen before. And, most who came in made purchases. It was fabulous for me to get new customers into the store. I dont have a lot to spend on advertising so when something like this comes along its really great for me, she said.

The big plus for many merchants was the opportunity to gain more traffic and introduce themselves to potential new customers, particularly as the holiday season draws closer.

It was a good opportunity for all of us, said Carol Supplee, owner of Imagine Artwear at 1124 King St. Many of the people said they plan to keep the brochure for reference and will be back for Christmas shopping.

Increased foot traffic was also the big gain for Patrick Dunn, owner of Silver Parrot Jewelry Boutique at 113 King St.

We had a lot more people coming in just to get their stamp for the drawing than actually buying anything, Dunn said.
But we did have a few who took advantage of our discount coupon. The real benefit for me was the increased traffic.

Thats always a good thing because it gets customers to know us.

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