Making town or city centre events work for the businesses

Making town or city centre events work for the businesses

You painstakingly organised a Christmas light switch on, families flocked from neighbouring villages, the streets were packed – yet the retailers said it made no difference to their trade – or worse still they chose not to open at all.  Sound familiar?  There is something you can do. 

Town & city centre events, such as beaches and Christmas lights, are an attractve proposition for BIDs and local authorites.  The activity is very visible, they attract footfall into the town, and are particularly popular with families.  Families are a valuable sector of traffic, as they dwell longer and typically spend more in a town or city centre than smaller party sizes.

I have interesting discussions with place managers on the boundaries of their responsibilities.  Is it their job to bring traffic into the town/city centre or are they expected to walk customers into each  store.  Despite traders demands, clearly the latter is unrealistic.  We can, however, engage the businesses and guide them through the process of capitalising on events.  

Capitalizing on event traffic is the job of retailers and leisure operators, who must lure beach goers and festive seekers from attractions to their stores.  This is not always easy, but can yield great rewards for those that step out from behind the counter and go customer hunting.

Steps place managers can take:

  • Encourage business engagement – modestly priced sponsorship of event elements
  • Give local businesses good notice of events – you will see below there are lots of things traders can do, but they will need some notice to make these happen
  • Share opportunities for them to maximise event (get in touch for a free retailers guide for events)
  • Create platforms for business to showcase themselves – A flyer/booklet of offers that relate to the event, a rack or spinner for business flyers
  • Avoid outsourcing too much – Christmas markets and fun fairs will clearly require some traders to come from outside the town.  A bbq, hogroast, facepainting, entertainer, hot drinks could potentially be provided by local business owners.  It can be harder work to get local traders involved, but keeping income within the town/city centre is better for everyone longer term
  • Run a workshop for retailers "How to maixmise events".  Contact us for more information

town centre beach eventSteps the traders can take

We work for place managers develioping and supporting retailers across UK and Europe.  Here are some steps your traders can take, to enhance and get more from your events. 

  • Make your business part of the event.  Too often an event is seen as something taking place in the square or market rather than something the entire town is involved with.  A whole town celebrating summer, halloween or Christmas makes for a more engaging and memorable experience for than just the market square.

– Create a terrific window display, in the theme of the event.

– If permitted, spill out into the street with relevant seasonal displays and relevant props.

– Play relevant music inside and outside the store (if permitted). Beach boys and seaside tunes for a beach festival for example. 

– If you can stock relevant products great, if not create deals with relevant names "Seaside Special" or "Free Beachball with every purchase!"

– Put on relevant activities in store that enhance the town centre visit (A sand castle master class, kids colouring – out of the sun, activity book, beach hair and make up, Christmas crafts). Promote in the window and by the event. 

– Offer free treats outside the store (ice pops, candy floss, soup at Christmas, mulled wine). These treats may also be offered at the event, courtesy of your business – the time it takes to serve is your opportunity to sell your business and encourage visitors to the store.

– Create photo opportunities in-store or outside, with face cutouts or props.  Take the pictures for people and direct them to your Facebook page to download.

  • Take your business to the people.  There is little point waiting in the store for people to come, when hundreds are gathered in the market place.  Draft in some extra staff to allow 'you' (not your junior helpers) to get in front of people.  If you give something to people (flyer, gift) this gives you 5 -10 seconds to sell them your business.  Practise your pitch "Why we are the must visit store".  Make it unique, perhaps rhyme and memorable.  

– Give out flyers with a specific offer, complementary activity or unique product/price that can be redeemed that day.  Today is the day to come in!  Don't simply hand them out, they will get thrown away, tell visitors about the business and why it's a 'must see'. 

– Consider working with some other businesses to share the cost and create a flyer together.  You can also share the time handing them out. 

– Make your flyer or coupon book themed to add value (fun fair ticket, Punch and Judy ticket).  Include a colouring element for the kids, so the flyer doesn't get thrown away – consider a colouring competition they must hand in at the store.

– For peak days or one day events, consider hiring a relevant dress up character.  These could make an appearance at the event and invite visitors to have free photos taken at the store later. These should be posted to Facebook and Instagram for added traffic.

Retailers Guide to EventsIf you would like a digital copy of the free 'event guide for retailers', to share with your businesses, please drop me a line.

To talk about how we can help you support traders in your town/city centre, please get in touch.

Telephone 01455 203 206



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Written by

Corin Birchall is a Retail Sales & Marketing Consultant and founder of “Kerching Retail - helping to make your till ring”. His consultancy works throughout the UK and Europe. Corin is an active writer, coach and public speaker, helping to develop and grow a wide range of businesses & business leaders from Leisure and Retail sectors

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