The holiday shopping season can be a great time for Main Street organizations and Chambers of Commerce to support local merchants and other downtown businesses. There are plenty of different paths you can take to encourage support for business districts. Here are 50 different ideas for marketing Main Street this holiday season.
Local Marketing Ideas for the Holidays
Create a Local Gift Guide
If you want to showcase all the different products people can buy from local businesses, put together a gift guide, either in print or online, to offer some ideas.
Print a Shopping Magazine
You could also print out a special magazine or brochure that includes information about local retailers and other businesses and deliver it to nearby residents.
Host a Special Event
Special events like parades, tree lightings and more can attract people to a downtown area. Then you can include sales or other promotions specifically aimed at getting people to buy from local businesses.
Have Regular Events
Or you could host a regular event once a week or so. This allows customers to get into the habit of visiting the business district and lets them know when there’s likely to be a lot going on in the area.
Include Sidewalk Sales
If you’re in an area where it’s not too cold, you could have local businesses set up some of their products outside so that people attending those local events don’t even have to go out of their way to see some of the products available.
Create a Facebook Page
Having an online presence on sites like Facebook can be a great way to alert people about local events and promotions. So you could create a Facebook page specifically for the downtown area so that local residents can follow for updates.
Have a Coupon/Flyer Exchange
To drum up more sales for a variety of different local businesses, you could have business owners trade coupons, flyers and other promotional materials to give out at their locations.
Invite Santa to Town
You could also host an event where you let kids get their picture taken with Santa Claus at a centrally located part of the local business district. Or you could even have Santa move around to visit multiple different business locations.
Organize a Scavenger Hunt
A contest or scavenger hunt of some kind can be a great way to get people to visit multiple different locations throughout a downtown business district. You could organize your own scavenger hunt with local business owners and even give it a holiday theme.
Have a Progressive Dinner
You could also offer some kind of food or treats that people can get at different businesses. Then have each business include flyers or information about what items they can get from the other businesses in the area.
Print Holiday Maps
For those customers who aren’t sure exactly what they can get at every downtown business, print out some informational maps and have them available at prominent locations throughout town.
Offer a Mitten Tree
Consumers are likely to want to do some kind of charitable giving during the holidays. So you could set up a mitten or giving tree with some requests from local families in need. Then shoppers can buy those requested items and drop them back off downtown.
Hire Local Entertainers
To create a really festive environment in your area, you could hire local musicians to play holiday songs for shoppers in the area.
Make a Promotional Calendar
You could also create a calendar that includes information about local businesses and any relevant promotions.
Offer Multi-Store Gift Cards
Gift cards are really popular during the holiday season. And you can help local businesses in your area gain some business having them team up to offer gift cards that are usable at a variety of different downtown locations.
Create a Cohesive Light Display
People also love looking at impressive light displays throughout the holidays. So if you can get local business owners to team up to create a cohesive display throughout the business district, it could attract even more shoppers to the area.
Host a Holiday Movie Viewing
There are plenty of themed movies that are popular throughout the holiday season. You can set up a big screen outside or at a local business and invite customers to come downtown for a special viewing.
Offer Local Transportation
For customers that want to browse around different downtown businesses, you can make it easier for them by providing some kind of fun transportation like a trolley or even horse and carriage rides.
Create a Dinner and a Movie Promotion
To support restaurants, theaters and other businesses in your downtown district, you can create gift certificates that they can use for a dinner and a movie or similar night out.
Host a Craft Fair
You can even get smaller businesses that might not have a physical location involved in your Main Street holiday promotions by hosting a craft fair or similar event in the area.
Create Memorable Graphics
When promoting your downtown area in stores and online, it’s a good idea to have some kind of recognizable graphic that people will recognize. You can even make holiday themed graphics to really get people into the spirit.
Have a Local Shopping Hashtag
To encourage people to share their experience patronizing local businesses, you can create a special hashtag just for holiday shoppers and local customers.
Encourage Facebook Check-ins
You can also put up signs reminding people to check into your downtown district and specific local businesses on Facebook.
Create a YouTube Video
And you can spread the word about all the different businesses in your downtown district by creating an informational video and posting it on YouTube.
Make a Locally Focused Pinterest Board
To share relevant products and business information on Pinterest, you can create some themed pin boards to showcase specific types of products from local retailers.
Support a Local Charity
To show off the philanthropic spirit of your area, you can choose a local charity and invite members to come to your area and collect money or educate people about a cause. Or you could even get multiple businesses in the area to donate proceeds to a particular charity.
Send Out Invitations
When you host an event in your downtown district, it can be a good idea to send out actual invitations to people in the area who might not otherwise hear about the opportunity.
Partner for a Giveaway
Consumers love winning free things. So you could organize a giveaway with multiple local businesses so that one or more customers has the chance to win a curated selection of local items.
Decorate Cookies at Different Businesses
You could also have a district-wide cookie decorating contest where people can show off their skills throughout the season for the chance to win specific local prizes.
Let Customers Decorate Stores
Or you could give customers the opportunity to make some holiday decorations at different local businesses. And then those businesses can use those homemade decorations to create a unique and festive environment.
Call Attention to the Benefits of Shopping Local
There are many ways that shopping local can help the economy and local residents. So you could create a video, brochure or other marketing materials to remind customers of some of those benefits.
Leverage the Local Parade
Many communities have parades around the holiday season. And you can use those events as a way to get the word out about different businesses in your community by making your own float or display or even sponsoring the event.
Offer Historical Tours
If you have any historical buildings in your downtown area, you could offer tours aimed attracting those who want to learn about the history of the area.
Keep Businesses Open Late
To offer even more options for shoppers, you could set up extended shopping hours for some businesses in the downtown area.
Set Up Ice Skating
You could also offer outdoor winter activities like ice skating to attract more potential customers to the area.
Partner With Local Publications
To show off some of the offerings of local businesses and to publicize events or promotions, you could sponsor or pitch stories to a local newspaper, magazine or even a popular local website.
Host an Online Contest
You can also get customers engaged online by having some type of contest where customers can submit photos, stories or other items on social media.
Display Local Art
Throughout your downtown area, you could show off artwork from local artists to encourage people to walk around and see all of the different pieces.
Encourage Customer Photos
You could also set up photo opportunities like some cool backdrops or props to encourage customers to share their experience of shopping in your community.
Offer Special “Shop Local” Products
Those who really like shopping local might even buy some products with that message. You could sell items like t-shirts and tote bags with your downtown district’s slogan and then use the money to support promotional efforts.
Get Local Shoppers Involved in Publicity
Every year, there’s some kind of trend, like flash mobs or this year’s mannequin challenge, that gets a lot of attention on the internet. You could organize one of those stunts with customers in your local community. This would get people to come to the area to participate and also get you some attention online.
Change the Name of Your Main Street
What might be Main Street the rest of the year could be Christmas Avenue or Candy Cane Lane during the holiday season, just for a little extra holiday cheer.
Put Up a Giant Tree
A giant tree is a must for any festive holiday shopping district. You could even have a big tree lighting event to kick off the holiday season.
Collect Items for Charity
Many charities accept items like winter coats or canned goods to help families in need. You could have local businesses set up boxes to accept those items from customers and then facilitate the donations.
Set Up a Gift Registry Site
To make gift giving a bit easier, you could set up a website with different products and gift cards from local merchants and then let customers create wishlists that they can send to people.
Provide Reusable Bags
Reusable bags can help the environment and spread positive messages throughout the holidays. You can provide stores with some reusable bags that include messages about shopping local.
Target Specific Customers
There are plenty of opportunities for special events throughout the holidays. But you can get even more specific with the consumers you target by hosting events like “girls’ night out” or kid-focused activities.
Host a Sporting Event
Sporting events like races or games can get people to visit your downtown district. You could organize this type of event and then have local businesses sponsor it for publicity.
Set Up a Pop-Up Shop
You could also get more people to visit the area by setting up some special pop-up shops for a limited time.
Offer a Loyalty Program
And throughout the year, you might consider starting a loyalty program so that consumers can get rewarded for shopping at any participating local businesses.
Christmas Decoration Photo via Shutterstock
Check out our Business Gift Giving Guide for more tips about holiday trends.More in: Holidays