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Best of The Best

Best of the Best: Co-Operative Promotion

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[h3]Classic Facets; Boulder CO[/h3]

Best of the Best Logo[dropcap cap=M]ikki Rainey, owner of Classic Facets in Boulder, CO, is on a mission to build a reputation for the quality-conscious specialty retailers in her area of the city. Says the straight-talking ex-hippie turned business maven: “We don’t carry crap.” And she’s launched a project to make sure that everybody in Boulder knows it.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]THE IDEA[/componentheading]

Faced with grim retail conditions, Rainey has hatched “The West End Is the Best End,” a cooperative promotional project designed to boost sales for herself and neighboring retailers. In bringing together roughly 75% of the merchants in Boulder’s West End, the four-month retail revitalization campaign that began in September is already showing signs of re-invigorating the retail district with new customers and increased sales.

[componentheading]THE EXECUTION[/componentheading]

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Mikki RaineyOne if the initial signs of a turnaround came in the first month of the campaign, when retailers began distributing buttons that read “I Got It in the West End”. Several thousand of the cheeky (literally) buttons were produced, with the $900 expense being absorbed by Rainey’s landlady to support the co-op promotional project. The oldest form of viral marketing caught on quickly, at least for some of the bolder Boulder residents.  

Says Rainey: “It’s creating quite a buzz in town. Guys are pinning them to their pants and people are constantly asking me how they can get a button. I wear mine everywhere.” 

Rainey also encouraged customers to wear her buttons around town by offering 10% off any purchase made in her store by a customer who was wearing one. Encouraged by the buzz created by the buttons, Rainey is expecting October’s treasure hunt event to create even more interest in the campaign.  

“The October event is going to be very interactive, fun and humorous,” says Rainey, who developed most of the hunt’s clues while splitting a bottle of wine in her gazebo with a friend. The three full-page ads in the Daily Camera, Boulder’s daily newspaper, will feature a treasure hunt map. Each participating merchant will have three clues. Each week in October, there is a new clue for a total of 90 clues. The winner, announced on Halloween night, will receive a $1,000 shopping spree at the stores of participating West End merchants. 

To garner additional media attention for the October event, Rainey has asked participating merchants to give a share of each store’s October profits to Blue Sky Bridge, a charitable group in Boulder dedicated to helping children who are victims of sexual abuse.  

“It’s a no-brainer,” says Rainey. “For this October’s treasure hunt, each merchant pays $73 per ad and $33.50 for their share of the $1,000 shopping spree, plus whatever percentage of their own profit they wish to share with Blue Sky Bridge. As far as promotions go, that’s pretty darn cheap.” 

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In November, the West End merchants will have a “Thank You” card month. “It’s Thanksgiving month and it’s time to be thankful,” explains Rainey. “Plus, everyone is already sending Christmas and Chanukah cards, why not do something different?” 

For the November event, each merchant will devise their own thank-you card. Rainey decided on a gift certificate which has two dollar amounts: one for existing clients, and another for new customers. For existing clients to get a $50 discount on their purchases, they must bring in a first-time customer who will also receive $100 off their purchase.

Best of the Best: Co-Operative Promotion

In December, the final month of the four-month campaign, each merchant will hold their own Ladies’ Nights and Gents’ Nights. For the ladies, Rainey will host “Wine-Thirty,” a Classic Facets reference to cocktail hour. In early December, Rainey will invite female customers in for wine, finger foods, and, of course, some jewelry gawking. Attendees will also be encouraged to complete holiday wish lists or spoil themselves with a self-purchase (what Rainey calls a “to me -from me” gift for the holidays). 

Once the wish lists are completed, Rainey will give each woman a “pillow note” to be given to each woman’s significant other. The note, which can be pinned to the pillow as a reminder or hint, is an invitation to “Beer-Thirty,” the guy’s night. Here, men will be treated to beer and “guy food.” At the party, they will also learn the contents of their significant others’ wish lists. 

Tired of failed attempts by Boulder’s city council and other business groups to boost shopping activity in the area, Rainey took on The West End revitalization program herself. No stranger to going door to door, Rainey pitched the campaign to her retail neighbors and signed on more than three-quarters of the area’s 40 merchants in July and August. She sends out weekly letters to each participating merchant updating them on the program, giving reminders of what’s ahead, and offering notes of progress.  

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“The campaign is very focused on the retail area,” says Rainey. “The program is meant to pump up the district, not just one store. If someone goes to eat a cheeseburger at the tavern down the block, that’s one more customer who walks by a store in the West End.”

[componentheading]THE REWARDS[/componentheading]

Best of the Best: Co-Operative PromotionLike the gold prospectors of Boulder’s past, Rainey has a miner’s optimism and dogged determination — and she thinks she’s hit a gold vein with this promotion. “At the end of all this, I expect a high return on my $500 to $1,000 promotional investment,” says Rainey. “October’s treasure hunt and the events in November and December will bring in more customers for the holidays, definitely!”  

If all goes as planned, Rainey may try to make The West End promotion an annual event. “It all depends on the West End merchants who see this as the year’s promotion or a way of being proactive in getting more customers in their stores,” says Rainey. “So far we’re hearing comments [from shoppers] like ‘I didn’t know the West End had such quality shops.’ This tells me that we could be on to something. And I have four events in the can and ready to go for next time.” 

[span class=note]This story is from the November 2005 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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