We want our downtowns and our retail stores to be welcoming for all kinds of customers. We’re especially interested in bringing young families downtown for shopping and for special events. To do that, we have to think from their perspective about what keeps them from coming downtown. Their answers might surprise you.
Jennifer Carlson replied to one of my posts on Facebook, “if our downtown had any parking, people would go there.”
She doesn’t mean there is zero parking; she means the parking isn’t convenient if you have young kids. She told me there is a parking garage, but she has never parked in it, “because I am always with children and the hassle (of the carrying, pushing and walking) makes it more worth it to me to shop online – or in one of the shops in the perimeter of town, with lesser quality (but also lesser price).”
Before you go straight into defensive mode or anger about shopping online and elsewhere, let’s look at what might help Jennifer and other young mothers and fathers enjoy the experience of shopping in our downtowns. She’s told us what she’s feeling, so let’s see if we can find a way to better serve her needs.
We can find an insight in the Time of Day Marketing research by Dr. Scott Dacko. He says that families with young children were most likely to shop during morning hours. And because daytime shoppers with young kids have different needs from people rushing in after work, he says we can change our approach throughout the day to better serve them.
(Now, if your first inclination is to say that mornings are not when families with young kids shop in your small town, then you can figure out when that actually is. They’ll be easy to find at the chain stores on the edge of town. Once you know what times they are more likely to shop, adjust the ideas below accordingly.)
How to make downtown more young-family friendly
- What about reserving some close-in spots for families with kids in tow, like we do for those with mobility issues?
- Could we do that especially during morning hours when families with young kids are more likely to shop?
- What about special family mornings, when the whole downtown is focused on families with young kids, including making close-in parking for families only?
- Could we valet park for families with young kids during morning hours?
- Inside our stores, how could we change the layout of temporary displays so that it is more stroller-friendly during the mornings? Could we roll out different displays for the afternoons or evenings, keeping the aisles clear during morning family time?
I am thinking we could do something cool with this idea of a special morning time for families with young kids, special displays, extra folks on hand to help with little kids, tie in with the library for special stories. Can you see other things that would make for a special time?
What other creative ideas could we all come up with to better serve people and families?
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.