Through his YouTube video John Hays had a simple plea for his neighbors and business community: “Let’s save our town.”
Hays is the owner of Port Madison Home, a home goods store on Winslow Way, who decided to start his own campaign to help downtown merchants get through tough times.
In his store, Hays has faced growing concerns about the rough economy and the impacts of the impending street construction project. He informed his neighbors through videos and in-store meetings that it wasn’t enough to hope the downtown merchants will stay afloat. He’s convinced the merchants have to help themselves and make changes to stay relevant in today’s economy.
The first result of Hays’ grassroots campaign begins this Friday with the “Friday Night Lights-On” event, which is an effort to generate buzz around downtown shopping as stores stay open late featuring live music and art. Hays and other business owners are working to rally support and collaboration between the merchants to stimulate foot traffic and cash flow.
He created a series of four short videos and broadcast them on YouTube to connect with other like-minded business people who are concerned about the future of downtown. The videos have generated some several hundred views on the site.
In order to bring in shoppers, Hay offered business owners with several best practice suggestions.
In order to combat local stores getting pigeonholed as expensive, Hay suggested that stores adopt low-price guarantees in order to give customers 30 days to find a lower price on the same product at a nearby store and get a refund of the difference.
He also suggested a customer satisfaction guarantee and extended hours to ensure downtown is a possibility at the time of day when shoppers want to purchase.
Participating stores will stay open late on Friday, Dec. 17 until 8 p.m., and again beginning in January 2011. Clive Hurst from Kitsap Carollers will also be on hand with his guitar and harmonica to add to the shopping experience with his live music.
Lari Seltzer from Real Foods Market and Cafe participated in Hays’ in-store meetings and expressed empathy to what downtown merchants are going through.
“One of the sticking points in the whole town is that everything closes up shop so early at night,” said Seltzer. “John has been pushing for a long time that people should stay open longer, and you have to do it for awhile to get customers to realize you made a change.”
The group hopes that by adding a more festive environment to Friday night shopping they will get some energy infused into shoppers. By capitalizing on the success of the First Friday Art Walks they hope to make Friday shopping a tradition.