Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Retailers OK blueprint to boost business

Ketchum merchants to cooperate on promotions, raffles and holiday festivities

Express Staff Writer

Debbie Burns, left, owner of Burnsie?s Boca clothing store in Ketchum, tells a group of downtown merchants about a plan to boost retail business in the city. Burns, who heads the ad-hoc Ketchum Retailers Alliance, called a special meeting of the group last week to implement a promotional plan before the Christmas shopping season. Photo by David N. Seelig

Ketchum retailers are banding together to encourage area residents to shop locally instead of venturing to large commercial centers in southern Idaho.

In a special meeting of the Ketchum Retailers? Alliance Wednesday, Oct. 27, a group of approximately a dozen downtown merchants agreed to enact a plan to make shopping in the resort city economical, fun and?quite possibly?lucrative.

Starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving, retailers will seek to entice locals to shop in Ketchum by cutting prices, staying open later and offering a chance at winning a $1,000 shopping spree.

?This is just a starting-off point,? said Debbie Burns, president of the retailers? group. ?We want to put Ketchum on the map as a shopping destination.?

Burns called the special meeting last week to determine exactly how far merchants are willing to go to implement a program that might draw more Wood River Valley shoppers to downtown Ketchum.

The city has become an increasingly challenging venue for retailers, Burns said, largely because many full-time residents of the area are opting to live in Hailey and other cities with less-expensive housing.

And, some retailers have pointed out, as Ketchum businesses are faced with trying to attract customers from a seemingly shrinking pool of full-time residents, some area shoppers are opting to go bargain hunting in places such as Twin Falls and Boise.

In addition, Burns noted, ?nights are not conducive to shopping? in Ketchum, in part because the downtown area has incomplete networks of sidewalks and streetlights.

?We need more bang for the buck,? Burns said. ?We want to be redefined as a local shopping area.?

In the end, other merchants agreed, saying they see a need to boost business in the normally quiet shopping period from late November until mid-December.

The ad-hoc retailer?s group ultimately agreed to:

· Conduct a daylong sale on Saturday, Nov. 27, that offers discounts of up to 20 percent on a large selection of merchandise and greater discounts on smaller selections of goods. The sale is designed to target primarily local residents.

· Keep their stores open later, until at least 7 p.m., from Dec. 20 through 24, as well as Fridays in December leading up to the final shopping week.

· Hold a festive downtown shopping celebration on Saturday, Sept. 18, during which the winner of a raffle for a $1,000 Ketchum shopping spree will be announced.

Stefany Mahoney, membership and visitor services manager for the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, said the Chamber will assist in the efforts to promote retail sales in Ketchum.

For the raffle, the Chamber will provide $1,000 in gift certificates good at local businesses that have memberships with the Chamber, she said. The organization will also send promotional material to residents of Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, and Boise to encourage shoppers to visit Ketchum during the holidays.

Mahoney said there are ?lots of reasons? why some people choose not to shop in Ketchum, one of them being a perception that businesses in the city carry only costly, high-end merchandise.

In fact, Mahoney said, many Ketchum businesses offer a large selection of items priced at less than $50, a point that she wants to help businesses advertise to local shoppers.

Burns said she envisions the effort to boost holiday business as the first step in a grander plan to bring shoppers to Ketchum throughout the year.

The Ketchum Retailers Alliance will hold its next meeting Thursday, Nov. 11, at noon in the Images of Nature Gallery, on Main Street.

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