A link to the report outlining the findings from an on-line survey of 2,500 shoppers can be found at http://www.icsc.org/web/RecessionBooklet104.pdf

For commercial district managers, some of the more pertinent information and findings from this survey related to the effectiveness of Loyalty Programs and Special Events in driving consumer traffic. These are two very common programs advanced by commercial district managers and so deserve a more detailed look…

Loyalty Cards – People Like Them, But They Aren’t Widespread Yet
While many consumers participate in loyalty programs offered by specific retailers, only 2% reported that they belong to a mall or shopping center program, the closest corollary to a district loyalty card. This may be due, in part, to the fact that the mall-wide programs are less prevalent and less well marketed. People did remark that they join these programs for the savings – so there does seem to be an untapped opportunity to grow consumer interest in district-wide loyalty programs.

Special Events Do Drive Retail Traffic
Not surprisingly, Special Events were an effective method of enticing shoppers to visit shopping districts. 40% of those surveyed said they attended a special event or activity at a shopping center within the past 12 months – and an additional 25% reported that although they had not attended a special event, they would like to see more special events in the future. The most widely attended events included farmers markets, crafts fairs and music events/concerts – all activities that also lend themselves to more traditional commercial districts as well. Most importantly, 58% of folks who attended these events said they purchased either food or other goods during their visit. This is good news for retailers who stand to benefit from special events put on by the commercial district management entity.

Make Sure the Special Event Actually Helps Businesses
I know, it sound simple, but I have visited many commercial districts where the district manager spends months planning special events that, in the end, do little to help local businesses grow their sales. So before you run out and put on a special event – remember that these events are a good compliment to retail only when they are planned and managed in such a way that retailers are able to benefit. For example, don’t hold special events when most stores are closed. This can sometimes be a challenge – particularly in districts where business owners are used to closing early and sometimes remaining closed over the weekend. Instead, work with retailers to engage them in the event by asking them to stay open, and then make sure that you give attendees a strong reason to go into open stores (raffles and in-store events that get them through a retailers door are two options). Also, make sure the events are held close enough to where the retail action is so that you increase the chances of attendees walking into local stores. I mean, what is the point of a farmers market as a revitalization tool if it’s five blocks from your retail stores? While the park may be a great place for a market – perhaps it makes more sense to close a side street that is closer to retailers – otherwise they will not benefit from the increased traffic you are creating.

Loyalty Cards and Special Events take a tremendous amount of work and effort – so make sure your retailers are benefiting from them before taking the plunge!

For more of the survey findings, be sure to check out the report at: http://www.icsc.org/web/RecessionBooklet104.pdf