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?
New to SmallBizSurvival.com? Take the Guided Tour. Like what you see? Get our updates.
- How small town businesses can market to remote workers and turn them into new customers - May 15, 2023
- Survey of Rural Challenges 2023 results - May 8, 2023
- Rural and small town ideas from the OU Placemaking Conference IQC 2023 - April 5, 2023
- Rural tourism trends say small towns are still cool - March 27, 2023
- Move Your Money and Bank Local - March 22, 2023
- Using a building as a warehouse or storage in a small town? Put up a sign - March 13, 2023
- How to get customers in the door of small town and rural retail stores - February 19, 2023
- Check your small business website for outdated pandemic changes, missing info - January 31, 2023
- Rural Tourism Trend: electric vehicle chargers can drive visitors - January 15, 2023
- 2023 trends for rural and small town businesses - December 26, 2022
I appreciate you taking the time to discuss this issue. I do just want to clarify what I mean by “no parking” on Main Street (in a town of about 50,000). Each business on our town’s main street has 2-4 parallel parking spaces. Nearly all of the businesses downtown have no other parking. There are a few buildings with very restricted alley parking – tenant only/reserved only/employee only/will be ticketed &/or towed. It is a several block walk from the parking garage (on the next parallel street over from the main street) to most stores. It is very frustrating to me, as the congested traffic also makes it hard to get downtown in the first place, to drive around looking for a place to parallel park, just to have the driver behind you refuse to allow you to park.
On top of this our city commission has preliminarily passed a waiver of parking requirements for businesses on the other major cross street – in other words parking lots will be a thing of the past there, as well.
Now, I have resigned myself to the reality of the situation, but on the other hand do not like hearing how ‘terrible’ it is to shop at the ‘big box’ and chain stores – where there is an actual parking lot.
For me, a little appreciation of the customer’s effort would go a long way.
Becky McCray says
Thanks for sharing more about your town and experiences, Jennifer. I’d love to hear what you think about ways to make downtowns (not just yours, but others as well) more friendly for folks like you? How could stores show their appreciation, like you mentioned?