I’ve always argued that commercial district managers should consider their jobs similar in scope and outcome to shopping center managers. Business Improvement Districts in particular share similar objectives, including the goal of driving retail sales for existing businesses and helping to maintain and enhance property values within the BID boundaries.

During the economic downturn, our jobs as district managers were more vital than ever. Promotion and marketing are critical to attracting the shrinking number of household discretionary dollars out there. A recent piece in the Denver Post [Retail center “mechanics” do whatever it takes to maintain tenants, 3/1/2011] follows Allen Ginsborg, a principal at NewMark Merrill Cos, a California-based commercial real-estate firm, in his sometimes zany efforts to do whatever it takes to drive pedestrian traffic to the shopping centers that he managers. Some of those efforts include:

  • Dressing up a man in a Santa suit and dropping him from a plane
  • Putting on shows (dog shows, car shows, etc)
  • Setting up seasonal events (i.e. Haunted House for Halloween)
  • Sending out coupon mailers
  • Using social networking sites 

His efforts don’t stop at marketing and promotion – he also looks at ways to address vacancies (Bingo hall anyone?) and take on much needed physical improvements aimed at making the shopping center more convenenient and visible to passers-by. Whether that includes new highway entrances, additional signage or taking down trees that are obstructing storefronts. These are kinds of efforts that can really have made a difference to your businesses bottom line. In the case of Ginsborg, his efforts seems to be paying off – 36% revenue growth and a 95% occupancy rate.

These efforts should sound extremelly familiar to most business improvement district managers. Helping your businesses find ways to collaboratively market their goods and services to residents, employees and visitors;  managing seasonal promotional events; utilizing social networking sites to share happenings in your district; these are all activities that should be part of any district managers everyday playbook.