The Christmas shopping season is once again upon us. With only 14 days left until "Black Friday," merchants are planning their advertising strategies. While local merchants, as gathered from comments at Tuesday's Downtown Merchants meeting, aren't planning so much for a Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), they are looking forward to a "Black Saturday," the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the following Saturday, Dec. 4.
Local merchants are conditioned to the shoppers' habit of rushing to the big box stores in the large malls on Black Friday so they seem to be gearing their advertising efforts more toward their local "Black Saturday" when local shoppers return home after having been beaten half to death by rude shoppers, experiencing unimaginable frustration, expending huge amounts of energy for little gain, burning countless dollars in gasoline trying to find a parking space to eventually find one a half-mile from the stores and then lugging their Christmas treasurers back to their vehicle - that same long half-mile away.
One merchant at Tuesday's meeting was heard to say that over the years she has had many customers come into her store and say, "Oh, I bought such-and-such at the mall in such-and-such town for the ridiculously low price of so-and-so." Then our local merchant tells her customer, "Well, I have the same thing right here at such-and-such a price." The next thing our merchant says she hears is a sigh of frustration from her customer. The grass always looks greener in the pasture across the way.
Downtown merchants are working closely with the advertising department of The Inter-Mountain in an effort to structure maximum advertising at the lowest possible cost during the upcoming Christmas shopping season.
One of the programs that's receiving a lot of interest is one similar to that used for the last two or three years in which the Downtown Promotional Committee of Elkins is working to encourage customers to shop locally on Dec. 4. Their hope is that by working together people will become more aware of the local businesses and bring more shoppers into town that day. Here's how the program works.
Customers that shop at participating stores will have the opportunity to sign up to win a $100 gift certificate that's redeemable at any participating business. The winner will be announced on Dec. 6.
Participating merchants will contribute $20 each to cover the cost of the gift certificate and advertising. The business(es) that redeem the gift certificate will be reimbursed by the promotional committee. Each participating store will be listed in The Inter-Mountain's promotion and on the gift certificate.
Merchants redeeming the gift certificate must return the redeemed ticket to Ceramics with Class to be reimbursed.
Merchants who would like to participate in the program and/or obtain a registration form or learn more about the program, should call Ed Griesel at 304-636-2903 or stop by Ceramic with Class. Fees and registration forms must be received at Ceramics with Class, 203 Davis Ave., no later than Nov. 24.
This year's downtown merchants' Trick or Treat apparently was a huge success according to comments made at Tuesday's merchants meeting. Sherry Hammer, owner of Hopscotch on Third Street, said she had more than 500 Trick or Treaters in her store and other merchants voiced the same "success."
"It was a great event," Hammer said. "I think this could lead to even a bigger evening of fun for the children while at the same time familiarized many of the parents with the wide variety of stores and merchandise that's available in our town.
"Perhaps we might consider a Halloween party that might include a parade for the kids next year. We could close off sections of some of the lesser traveled downtown streets for an hour or two and give the children and the parents an opportunity to enjoy all the different costumes that the children and parents go to some much trouble to create and wear."
It's a great idea but someone will have to step forward and assume the job of organizing it.
The merchants also want to thank all those children and parents who participated in the event.
Let me add a word here about Hammer's comment about "familiarizing people with what's available in and the variety of downtown stores." At almost every merchant's meeting one or more of the merchants will make the comment that someone came into their store during the past week or so and said something like, I've lived here all my life and I didn't know there was a store like this in Elkins! Or, I had no idea you could buy this in Elkins. It's hard to imagine that comments like these would be heard in such a small and closely-knit community but, as you can see, it's happening. Many of our shoppers from the outlying areas aren't all that familiar with the downtown area. In fact, some of the merchants believe that a great many people here in Randolph County don't realize that there is more to the city than that which is situated on Randolph and Harrison avenues. It's hard to believe, but it's a fact.
It seems that each week something else has been added to the Christmas parade. According to information released at Tuesday's merchants' meeting, parade entries will be judged and winners will be eligible for "hundreds of dollars" in prize money. Judges will be stationed at Gino's Pizza and Spaghetti House. Winners will be notified on Dec. 6.
According to information from the Elkins Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, the event is "quickly earning the reputation as being one of the largest 'small town' Christmas parades in the Mountain State."
The parade with assemble at the old Elkins High School and travel up Davis Avenue to Fourth Street. Entrants must be lined up by 5:30 p.m. The parade will step off promptly at 6 p.m.
The theme for this year's parade is "Visions of Christmas."
For more information and parade entry forms, call the ERCCC at 304-636-2717 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time is running out for those who wish to reserve space in the 2011 West Virginia Travel Guide. Interested advertisers must act fast because sales will close on Dec. 20. That gives you just a little more than a month to reserve your space in the Division of Tourism's Travel Guide at the primary fulfillment price.
Miles Media has once again been selected to publish the West Virginia Official State Travel Guide.
With a dramatically increased circulation next year, 500,000 copies of the "2011 West Virginia Official State Travel Guide" will be distributed at trade shows and welcome centers and mailed to those who request West Virginia travel information at www.wvtourism.com or by calling 800-CALL WVA. That means even more travelers who have already expressed an interest in visiting West Virginia will see your ad and possibly show up at your door.
Among the new highlights for 2011 are a slightly smaller, consumer-preferred and eco-friendly sized guide, plus free QR Codes that can provide additional traffic - and tracking - for advertisers. An enhanced e-Book and new iPad/iPhone app are also planned.
For more information, contact your Destination Specialist Loren Jordan (Metro Valley, Hatfield-McCoy, Mid-Ohio Valley, Mountain Lakes, Mountaineer County, Northern Panhandle) at 304-741-0677, or by e-mail at Loren.Jordan@MilesMedia.com, or Carly Stedman Norosky (New River-Greenbrier Valley, Potomac Highlands, Eastern Panhandle) at 304-982-3298, or by e-mail at Carly.Stedman@MilesMedia.com.
You also can download the Travel Guide Media Kit at enews.wildandwonderful.com/images/leisure/WVA11_MediaKit_11_5_a.pdf.