“If you don’t have anything else to do, dress up like a hotdog.”

Downtown districts hold events for a variety of reasons:  to raise the identity and up the energy of a district, to earn money for the  downtown organization and to boost retail sales in district stores.  All are good reasons, and the events promote the role of the district as the central convening point in a community.

With that being said, getting everyone on the same page to establish event goals and maximize the collective and individual opportunities is more than a notion.  And, it is just the point of one of the new workshops offered by the Small Town and Merchant Program (STAMP) of the Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network.

Virginia Main Street (VMS) has partnered with the Network over the past two years to offer merchant trainings to designated communities on several topics.  The district-wide trainings for merchants and downtown volunteers combine a community workshop with one-on-one merchant consultations with retail expert Marc Willson.

Wilson recently spoke to a crowd of 50 gathered at the VMS Summer Toolkit to give an overview of the new slate of workshops, including TEAM Eventacular: Town, Events and Merchants Partnering for Profits.  There are many ways merchants can take advantage of events to build their customer base and raise awareness of their businesses, including the strategy of this blog post’s title.

Other titles in the series include the following:

  • Staying Relevant to a Changed Customer
  • Window Signs and Visual Displays: Stewards of Your Brand
  • Restaurateurs – The Experience is Twice as Important as the Food
  • From Bah Humbug to Booming Holiday Sales

For more information on the program, download the brochure.  If you are interested in hosting a training in your Designated Virginia Main Street Community, contact Jeff Sadler.

Small Town and Merchant Program brings relevant resources to downtown merchants

Virginia Main Street continues the partnership with Virginia Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), bringing the Small Town & Merchant Program to traditional commercial districts.

In the workshop, “Staying Relevant to a Changed Customer,” retail expert Marc Willson positions the consumer in the recovering economy and provides real resources and information to help merchants retain existing customers and capture new ones.  He then provides one-on-one retail and restaurant check-ups, tailoring strategies for specific businesses.

Marc Willson brings  35 years of experienceto participating communities.  In 1975, Marc started his retail career as co-owner of the largest distributor of Earth Shoes in the U.S.  Since then he has held executive positions with retailers such as Britches of Georgetowne, Crown Books, Circuit City, The Bicycle Exchange, Ecampus.com and Storetrax, Inc.  Most recently, he traveled to Dallas, Texas to open the world’s first energy efficiency store for Current Energy, LLC, a company funded by Ross Perot, Jr. Marc joined the SBDC in 2009 as a Retail Industry Consultant.

For more information on the program, designated Main Street communities should contact Virginia Main Street.  Other communities should work through the local SBDC.