Emporia Main Street has the ability to communicate “best practices” or “generally agreed upon traditions” with the local area without saying “you MUST do this.”  We don’t have the power to compel independent businesses to do things they don’t want to do, but we find that many businesses understand that everyone can improve through a little cooperation and consistency.
After last year’s holiday season, a few businesses asked Emporia Main Street to put together a guide for holiday hours, days of operation, decorations and activities.  Our Promotions Team and Design Team, whose members are local merchants, advertisers and other concerned citizens, discussed the question and have offered these suggestions:
 
1.  When should businesses start “late hours”?  The general consensus among volunteers was that extended hours should start immediately after Thanksgiving.
 
2.  What days/hours should my business be open once late hours start?  Team volunteers stated that businesses should be open seven days a week, with store fronts open until at least 7:00 p.m. every day but Sunday (Sunday hours were a suggested 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.).
 
3.  What should I do for decorations?  The Design Team suggested that every storefront (and upper story, when applicable) window be lined with lights and storefront lights be left on even past hours of operation to encourage window browsing and the “billboard” effect.
 
In response to other questions about the holiday shopping season, the two teams offer the following ideas:
 
1.  What should my window theme be for this year’s window decoration contest?  Emporia Main Street usually judges windows during the evening of the Chamber Christmas Parade and hands out prizes to the top three windows.  We also submit pictures of participating windows so the public can chose their top three window designs.  In the past, we have suggested a theme that corresponded with the parade theme that window designs needed to adhere to.  After some thoughtful input from the Promotions Team, we have decided to drop the “theme” requirement from the window design contest.  Be creative in ways that help customers identify with your business type and draw people into your location.

 
2.  For earlier holidays, like the downtown Trick or Treat on October 25th, should I have candy outside of my front door, or inside my store? The Trick or Treat is a great way to introduce the public to your products and services IF they actually see your products and services.  We suggest having a candy table inside your storefront towards the back of your store.  Yes, it gets a little more chaotic, but if you are giving away free candy you should get some free advertising.  We also strongly suggest that you have coupons or event flyers for adults that come into your storefront with children.  A little extra attention to adults could provide some great business opportunities during a prime shopping season.
 
3.  Should I have an open house?  We encourage businesses to have independent events, and Emporia Main Street would love to help you market your events through our newsletter and social media.  Send us your flyer, and we will do our best to include it in weekly updates!
 
4.  How can we help promote shopping specials around Thanksgiving?  Emporia Main Street will promote our electronic Holiday Shopping Guide again this year with your “Black Friday”, Small Business Saturday and “Cyber Monday” specials.  Look for our request for information, and fill out your store specials.  We will send your specials out through a special electronic newsletter and social media to encourage shopping.
5.  With the extended holiday hours, are we still doing a late night?  The Promotions Team suggested late night activities correspond with Horse Drawn Carriage Rides downtown.  Team members said that the Thursday nights in between Thanksgiving and Christmas provided good late night activities, with stores being exposed to carriage riders until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday nights.  Midnight Madness is on December 11th (a Thursday), so planning on staying open late on Thursdays is a good practice to get into.

6.  Can we carry Emporia Main Street ornaments and other merchandise for the holidays?  Yes.  Main Street members can carry certain merchandise, including Emporia-Opoly, Historic Playing Cards and Christmas Ornaments.  You simply need to notify us that you want to be an outlet, and we will take care of the rest.
 
7.  Can we decorate the lamp posts on our block?  This is something we’ve been asked the last couple of years…  A combination of L & L Pets, Emporia City Public Works and Main Street work together to light corner lamp posts and trees.  Interior lamp posts can be tastefully decorated with lights if businesses want to brighten up their block.  Although lamp posts are tough, they can be damaged, so be careful with planning.

Again, these are voluntary activities, but at your request we collected suggestions for you.  Look through the ten items above and decide what works best for your business.  Working cooperatively with your neighbors can create a more attractive atmosphere for the consuming public and result in a more profitable fourth quarter.  Extending hours, creating new activities and establishing programming above and beyond the “norm” can be daunting, but the fourth quarter is the defining profitable quarter for many retailers restaurants and service businesses.  Take some time to determine what you can do to enhance your market position this holiday season.

See this article and many others in this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!