by Anna Jauhola and Wendy Royston, Dakotafire Media
Some entrepreneurs in the Dakotafire region are banding together to bring more of the thrill of the holiday shopping experience—and those who seek it—into their shops.
“The experience … determines how long a customer stays around and how much shopping they’ll try to do while they’re in the store,” said Becky McCray, a liquor store owner from Alva, Okla., who speaks and writes about retail business. “If you give people more ways to have a great experience, they’re less likely to leave empty-handed.”
And the same could be said for communities as a whole.
“The more going on, the more people want to come to town,” said Kelsi Heer, co-owner of Dizzy Blondz in Britton, S.D.
This year, Britton retailers are collaborating on a Facebook page to promote Shop Britton, SD Black Friday . Each of the seven businesses involved is posting their own specials, but marketing together to increase awareness of all the community has to offer.
“If we all work together, we can promote our town, rather than just having each of us promote our own business,” Heer said. “The businesses in Britton complement each other. We all offer something a little bit different.” Since out-of-towners may not realize that, the businesses’ marketing “might make it worth the trip for someone, or it might make it worth it for someone from Britton to stay in town and shop if they know about all of the specials going on, instead of if they knew about maybe what one business is doing.”
According to a survey by bestblackfriday.com , shoppers consider “traditional” Black Friday shopping to be stressful and dangerous.
“I think this is an important fact for small-town retailers. It’s a great opportunity to focus on your own promotion of how uncrowded and safe your store is,” McCray said, to give customers a pleasant experience. “Retailers need to say, ‘We don’t like Black Friday shopping either, so here’s how we can provide a better service for you.’”
Webster, S.D., recently created a holiday shopping “destination” to kick off the holiday shopping season. Eight businesses decorated, served snacks and beverages and offered one-day-only deals. Shoppers were invited to fill out a shopping “passport” to be entered into a drawing for a $400 prize package. At the same time, two separate craft fairs happened on Main Street, and other businesses held their own open houses.
“Webster was crazy that night,” said Melissa Waldner of the Webster Area Development Corporation & Day County Champion Community.
Waldner said the event was inspired by Britton’s twice-annual Ladies’ Night Out events, as well as recommendations by the Design:SD process to improve the community in 2014.
“The vision boards touch on working together with events, extended hours and promotions/advertising, as well as encouraging new tourism revenue and marketing the town’s events and attractions,” Waldner said, adding that these events can “impact how local residents and visitors see their town.”
As part of Webster’s event, store owners committed to investing in collaborative advertising, hanging flyers, hosting an open house and extending their hours for the event.
McCray acknowledged that extended store hours can be a lot of work for small businesses, but customers don’t care.
“Towns are changing, technology is changing, everything is changing,” she said. “Business cannot stay the way it’s been.”
In Britton, some—but not all—businesses will open early Black Friday, a decision that was carefully crafted by retailers. Opening times among the Britton businesses involved in Shop Britton, SD Black Friday  are staggered, to allow shoppers the opportunity to check out each shop’s deals and gifts without rushing out to the next business.
And, with a 7 a.m. start time, even the earliest-openers might get a little piece of the Black Friday chaos second-hand. While some of their shoppers venture only into the local retail spaces, some come in after already fighting the crowds in Aberdeen or Watertown.
“I actually really enjoy working on Black Friday,” Heer said. “It’s fun to hear their stories” about the crowds and catch up with others who lived in Britton when she was a child. “They are home with their families, and they love that there is something to do.”
Heer said collaborative marketing for events like Black Friday are much easier when businesses work together year-round. The Britton shop owners slip lists of all of the local retailers’ addresses and business hours into shopping bags, to promote each other.