I was walking through a retail hardware store and greenhouse in rural Kansas. The owner and I talked about the amazing selection he could keep in such a small town. He spent a little time lamenting all the things he used to be able to offer, but can’t anymore. Then we started brainstorming ideas for crazy events, things that sound like a distraction from his real business.
He could do Tool Days. Bring in the guy who does blade sharpening for the afternoon. Set up tents in the parking lot and have people teach how you use tools of all kinds. Do demonstrations and hands-on (appropriate) play with tools. Make it a fun deal.
He could hold dinner in the greenhouse. It’s a wonderfully green and lush space in dry Western Kansas. There’s room for a couple of tables, and there’s a bubbling fountain. It’s great! Let’s have dinner there! Get a local eatery or aspiring chef to cater. Have fun with it. Use a jungle theme. Get creative. Since there are only a couple of tables available, turn it into a super-exclusive special thing that not everyone can do. Sell out early.
You may think these events are a distraction from his real business of running the store and greenhouse, but I disagree. To survive in independent local retail today, you must provide an experience that can’t be duplicated by chain stores or online or in the big city.
It’s the same idea as having musicians on the sidewalks and artists in businesses during Art Walks. It’s like the Sip ‘n Shop events or downtown concerts. It’s all about an experience.
The challenge to you is to come up with your own distractions. What experiences can you provide to customers that they can’t get anywhere else?
- Downtown is your town’s core: How to make your case - February 22, 2021
- Zoom Towns: attracting and supporting remote workers in rural small towns - December 10, 2020
- In an economic crisis, spend your brainpower before your dollars - November 25, 2020
- Video: How to fill empty car dealership buildings for the holidays - November 6, 2020
- How has 2020 changed the challenges rural small towns face? Tell us here - October 20, 2020
- The Idea Friendly Method to surviving a business crisis - October 6, 2020
- Join me for the Rural Renewal Symposium online Oct 13 - September 26, 2020
- Cheap placemaking idea: instant murals - September 11, 2020
- Refilling the rural business pipeline - July 7, 2020
- Huge vacant buildings: grants to renovate? - June 9, 2020