Buy local pledges and similar sloganeering might indicate hearts are in the right place, but it's more important to put customers in the right place if you want to make a difference to the bottom line.
With that in mind, kudos are due Main Street Beaufort, USA, and downtown Beaufort merchants for their recent efforts. By dangling deep discounts for merchandise and parking, they give shoppers an incentive to visit Bay Street and surrounding areas.
And the shoppers should bring prosperity with them.
One strategy involves $1-a-day parking. A deal struck about two weeks ago between Main Street Beaufort, USA, and the families that own the Port Republic Square parking lot provides discounted parking. Main Street will buytokens for $1 each from the lot owners and sell them for the same price to member businesses, executive director LaNelle Fabian said. Those businesses can then give the tokens away or sell them for up to $1 to employees and customers.
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The $1 passes are good in the Craven Street portion of a private lot owned by the Trask and Tucker families, where parking normally costs $5 a day.
Main Street also is selling $15,000 worth of "Main Street Dollars," which can be used Feb. 18 to March 31 at participating businesses. The dollars will be sold at half price in $10 increments. So for $50, people will receive $100 in Main Street Dollars.
Main Street has $7,500 in a marketing fund that will be used to reimburse businesses that accept the dollars, Fabian said, adding she hopes local banks will donate additional money to expand the program. If Main Street Dollars prove successful, the program could be repeated in August or September, another slow shopping period,Fabian said.
Such discounts are the result of ingenuity and cooperation, don't hinge on a direct subsidy from taxpayers and offer genuine value to consumers.
This is a smart strategy. After all, appeals to sentimentality are all well and good, but merchants can drum up far more business by appealing to pocketbooks.