Thursday, May 18, 2017

Summer Shopping Hours Survey

As we approach the busy summer season, I would like to take a moment to wish everyone a very prosperous and successful year. The Chamber is totally dedicated to helping our member businesses be successful. Over the years we have developed some great events designed to bring visitors to our area, some for the very first time. We have held seminars to help you with current technologies and tried to keep you informed on the latest trends. We have advocated for many improvements to the Town and even raised the funds to implement some of them. All of these initiatives have been geared toward improving the business environment and the product while making our members stronger and more successful.

One of the initiatives we have pursued has been to encourage retail businesses to meet consumer expectations by extending or modifying operating hours. Research has shown that today’s consumer is no longer content to come to your business only when it is convenient for you to be open. Furthermore, in this day of 24/7 internet shopping, many of the iconic retailers are struggling with their existence; ie Macy’s, J.C. Penney’s and Sears to name a few. In many cases these are businesses that have been too inflexible to make necessary changes to their operations to adapt to the current environment.

This year, we will again promote all retailers who agree to remain open past 5:00 pm and open earlier on weekends by promoting your closing hours on a nice rack card that will be presented at the hotel’s front desk to guests as they check in. In conversations with our lodging members, we know that in the overwhelming majority of cases, during the guest check in, there are two questions asked:

1) Where do you recommend eating?
2) What time do the stores close?

These are also the two most asked questions in the visitor center.

Today’s traveler is not the same as twenty years ago. They likely will not arrive early enough to check in and get to your store before 4:30 and many of them don’t want to feel rushed by a store clerk that wants to get out at 5:00. Since the biggest attraction for travelers to come here is outdoor recreation, they are going to be out early their first morning on a hike or other outdoor activity. By the time they return, it is closing time again.

The Chamber believes that having a vibrant downtown in the evening hours, especially on weekends, is critical to the overall success of the Town. This is especially true during major events and on holiday weekends. It will take more than one or two stores participating to create this energy in the Town.

The usual response from merchants is “I don’t do any sales after 5:00” or “I have tried it”. Well, there is one fact for sure, you that you will do no ($0) sales after 5:00 if you are closed. On the other hand, if you are consistent and dedicated to later hours for a year or more, you will begin to sell more and more. If your neighbors also embrace this concept, everyone will do more and more. The key is to commit for a whole season to remain open later.

Please complete the survey and commit to energize Blowing Rock during events and weekends at the very least!

Charles Hardin, CCEC, IOM
President / CEO
Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce

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