Properties & Leasing

How to strengthen community relations and boost foot traffic through a seasonally themed shopping center event

Posted by: Tom Simmons Tom Simmons
on April 13, 2012

Most shopping centers nationwide organize special events around major holidays, like Christmas or Fourth of July. But few host events to celebrate the arrival of spring. That’s what Kimco’s Suburban Square did the other week at its Ardmore Farmers Market Spring Social event.

With hundreds of attendees coming out for the soiree, the unique event proved to be a successful way to drive traffic to the shopping center and its merchants, while strengthening ties with the local community. We wanted to write about how and why it worked to give you some ideas for increasing foot traffic to your center and connecting with your community.

First, to give you a sense of the demographics of the area, Suburban Square is located in Ardmore, Pa., a town that’s part of what’s known as the “Philadelphia Main Line.” This region is made up of a string of affluent towns situated on the former Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which ran northwest from downtown Philadelphia. So Suburban Square caters to many well-to-do customers.

One of the center’s businesses is the Ardmore Farmers Market, which comprises about 16 local food and beverage purveyors. Many Main Liners come to the farmers market for lunch and to shop for fresh, gourmet foods and beverages.

Suburban Square and the Ardmore Farmers Market held the Spring Social event to celebrate the arrival of spring, the well-known area organization Devon Horse Show, and the community. There were many factors at play that enabled the team to put together a successful community event. Here are five of the primary strategies:

1. Create an event that’s uniquely yours. As I alluded to earlier, holding events around holidays like Christmas and Fourth of July can certainly give you a surge in foot traffic. But it doesn’t necessarily give you a competitive advantage over other shopping centers. Holding a unique event, however, can give you that leg up. While most shopping centers operated business during the first week of spring, Suburban Square was playing host to an additional hundreds of customers at its Spring Social event. It was an uncommon but delightful premise, as many people look forward to shaking off the winter blues and welcoming the warm weather.

2. Give back to customers. Ardmore Farmers Market merchants offered samples of their fresh, locally produced food and drinks for all attendees to enjoy. Of course, free food is a surefire way to lure attendees to any event. But this wasn’t the merchants’ only motivation. Their objective was to use their free offerings as a way of saying thank you to their loyal customers and welcoming new customers to try their goods.

3. Partner with local organizations that have similar audiences. Suburban Square partnered with Devon Horse Show, which has a similar audience. Attendees got a sneak peek at this year’s Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, as supporters from the Devon Horse Show Ladies’ Committee came out to the event, donning their best horse show hats and dresses. The organization’s three-piece country band also paraded through the merchants’ stands. This helped increase the number of targeted attendees by drawing Devon Horse Show fans to the event, while giving Devon Horse Show a platform from which to promote its upcoming horse show. In turn, this created a symbiotic relationship between Suburban Square and Devon Horse Show, which fostered community relations.

4. Make the partnership relevant to the event. The partnership should be relevant to the event to create a cohesive message. Consider: One of the main purposes of the event was to connect with the community. So it follows to partner with an organization that has a strong community focus as well. Devon Horse Show fits the bill, as it donates money raised from the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair to the local Bryn Mawr Hospital. In addition, some of the featured food samples at the event came right out of the Devon Horse Show cookbook, “Appetizers at Devon.” Again, this tied the Ardmore Farmers Market and Devon Horse Show together in a relevant way.

5. Highlight the event and its community focus through your communications channels. Our blogging team was at Suburban Square to capture the sights and sounds, interview attendees, and meet the team that created the Spring Social event. And we’re showcasing their coverage right here on our blog. In fact, you can tune into our video footage here. (You can skip ahead to any part using the index below.)

You can also flip through the Spring Social photos our team took:

The video and photo coverage captures the community focus and tells the story behind the event — along with this very blog post. Kimco’s blog is one way we feature the goings-on at our centers and tenants’ businesses, and highlights how they’re adding value to the communities in which they’re located.

So there you have it. Five elements for putting together a successful seasonal event at your shopping center that helps drive foot traffic and strengthen community relations. What other tactics and strategies do you see from watching the video that enabled the team to create a successful event?

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