Retailers Rest Hope On Boutique Week

Retailers Rest Hope On Boutique Week

The game piece for Alexandrias Boutique Week doesnt help you get a stake in the B&O Railroad and has no implications toward passing go or collecting the commensurate $200 payment.

It is not a hat, a shoe or a thimble.

What the game piece can get you, however, is a chance at a $1,000 shopping spree and free nights stay at the Morrison House which, along with the attraction of discounts at 50 participating Alexandria shops, city tourism leaders hope will make the event a success by luring shoppers into places where they can get quality goods like hats and shoes and thimbles and establish the city as a specialty-shopping haven.

Theres really short-term and long-term [goals], said Stephanie Brown, president of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association. In the short-term we want to provide an immediate stimulus to retailers in town but certainly by doing this level of outreach it also positions and re-brands Alexandria as a place you want to come shop.

Boutique Weeks primary target audience is regional shoppers but ACVA also mailed nearly 100,000 informational packets to households throughout the Mid-Atlantic, according to ACVA officials.

Currently ongoing running through Sunday Boutique Week features 50 businesses located in Old
Town and Del Ray offering some sort of special incentive to shoppers between October 10 and 18, according to the event website. Shoppers who visit at least five participating boutiques to get their game piece stamped would then be eligible for the grand prize giveaway-getaway.

The timing for the event, on the heels of Art on the Avenue in Del Ray, the Old Town Festival of the Arts and overlapping with the inaugural Old Town Food and Wine Festival, seemed like a logical fit.
We thought it would work well this time of year because we could use marquee events to target those event attendees and bring them back for shopping, Brown said.

Edison Mattioli, a sales associate at Chateau Animaux on South St. Asaph Street, said Wednesday its difficult now to judge how much Boutique Week has affected sales, but that each event like it is usually a boon for business.

Mattioli called the Old Town art festival amazing for business and, through Wednesday, had seen about 20 people come through the shop for the Boutique Week promotion.

All of the events in Old Town are beneficial for our relationships, Mattioli said. People like fun and here, or in any business, 10 or 20 percent off is not that big of a deal to them but the special events liven up the experience just what the organizers sought with the promotion.

If we can position shopping in Alexandria as a great experience, that its not just about the products you buy but about the fun of being in this great city then that really reminds people its about the experience and not just placing an order, Brown said.

According to Brown, when it comes to tourism, any other way people can enjoy free time is worthy competition. For boutique retailers, one of the main threats is online shopping as well as the large one-stop shopping centers prevailing throughout the region.

At Grape + Bean on South Royal Street, its an ongoing effort to attract new customers to the year-and-a-half-old business.

So often what were trying to do is let people know were here and what we are, so this is an opportunity to draw some people who may never have been in before, owner David Gwathmey said.

Every little bit helps as far as sales go.

Our primary audience are people who live nearby, but on the weekends and when these special things are happening were getting people from the greater Northern Virginia area, Fairfax, Bethesda and places like that, Gwathmey said.

Mid-week, the promotions immediate effectiveness is still unclear.

Ive had a lot of people come in wanting their [game piece] stamps, but havent given out any sale discounts so far, said Rose ODonnell of the Torpedo Factorys Art League Gallery. We hoped it would bring people in, which it has done. If we can get new people in here anytime, Im happy to do that.

Elswhere, at Le Tache couples boutique, employees said theyve only seen one or two people a day come to the store with the Boutique Week flier.

Going into the event, a compliment to ACVAs Restaurant Week that began last January, organizers understood results were not likely to be staggering from the start.

Theres not a particular goal in mind except to make a difference for the shops in Alexandria, Brown said. Promotional efforts usually take a couple of years to gain traction.