After the leftovers from a hefty Thanksgiving dinner are put away, it’s become a tradition for many consumers to head to the malls. But one shop-local initiative wants to lure customers away from the huge Black Friday sales — and stir up some excitement about downtown retail.
Take Nashua: The city's annual Holiday Stroll is now in its 19th year. It’s a ritual Saturday evening with entertainment, tree lighting, ice sculptures, and food venues. For the 30 or so storefronts in a two-mile downtown radius, it’s a chance to put a fresh spin on what most say has been an otherwise bland shopping season.
Richard Young manages a tiny Main Street boutique crammed with infant and toddler shoes, headbands and handbags. He says the Saturday night stroll is the store’s biggest event of the year. "It brings in a lot of business with lots of lots of people coming in," Young says. "It’s fun because people come in, and say, I didn’t know you were here!"
The organization Great American Downtown plans the event. Its director, Rebecca Dixon, says the stroll is the largest holiday outdoor event in southern New Hampshire.
"Last year we drew close to 40,000 people. There are 60 different performances taking place in over 30 venues throughout the city, which is all free," Dixon says.
This year Dixon is adding TV commercials to the marketing strategy to reach audiences from Worcester up through Concord.
"Our marketing campaign’s goal is to get people to come down, and once they’re here, to experience the atmosphere and hopefully return," Dixon says.
As most downtown merchants agree, the success of this Saturday night’s event is not measured in the revenues of this one night, but in the publicity it generates throughout the year.