Great piece in this morning’s Wall Street Journal (“Hybrid Stores: Can Shopping be Fun Again?“) about how some retailers are turning the old retail model on it’s head to get customers in the door. A clothing store that throws DJ parties with photo booths? A boutique with a cafe in front? As retail sales have slowed down over the past two years, retailers are looking, in some cases, to share rent with other businesses, and in others differentiate themselves from the crowd by providing more than just a shopping experience. They are hoping to provide something more akin to a full blown an entertainment experience.

Turning this growing ‘experience’ economy – a term we’ll use to describe retail shopping and shoppers who want more than just the opportunity to spend money – into retail sales for your district takes some creative thinking. I’m working in a community in Pittsburgh where local merchants rave about the local ‘soup crawl’ . These merchants disagree on almost everything, but what they do agree on is that the soup crawl is one of their most successful shopping promotional events. These kinds of activities help highlight the unique nature of our traditional commercial districts – and allow traditional commercial districts to compete more successfully with local malls.