Planners discuss downtown enhancements

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Planners from PGVA, a St. Louis company, spoke at a retail development seminar in Cassville on Thursday.

Mike Hemmer, project manager for the Cassville Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri Initiative, said the seminar was a kick-off to the retail phase of the project.

Hemmer introduced Sara Tetley, who has worked on projects such as the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, N.C., and the Grand Canyon Visitors Center in Arizona. Tetley had visited Cassville retailers earlier in the day and made observations about their business environments that would enhance the downtown area and create a shopper-friendly environment.

"The object is to get people through the downtown area and get them to buy something before they leave," Tetley said.

Toward that end, she recommended making sidewalks, windows and entryways inviting and enticing to potential customers.

"Customers are looking for expert and friendly assistance," Tetley said. "Let shoppers know what unique product or service you have to offer. Provide an interesting environment not found in big box stores."

Tetley recommended proprietors keep sidewalks clean and safe in front of businesses, as well as placing flowers, unique signage or other attractive enhancements on the sidewalk or at eye-level in street-facing windows.

"Windows are difficult," Tetley said. "They serve as a billboard to your business. What message is your window sending?"

Tetley said windows also provided a perfect opportunity to "brand" a business with a logo, theme or graphics.

"Great displays lure shoppers in," Tetley said. "Often, they result in multiple sales."

She said corner windows proved challenging, at times, as the "statement" displayed in them would either lure a shopper on down that block or make them avoid the area altogether.

"If you have an empty corner window, try to make arrangements to have several displays from different businesses inside to give shoppers a feeling of what is further down the block," Tetley said. "Make empty storefronts come to life."

Tetley said there were a number of techniques business owners could utilize to make their shops more appealing to the public.

"Establish a theme or use props," she urged. "Use flexible backdrops, which will cut the glare inside of the store and make window displays pop. Make sure the backdrop can be shopped from both sides."

The use of graphics can also offer information as to the business or service offered at the business without the use of displays or props.

"They define the function of the business and add interest to the merchandise or service offered," Tetley said.

She also recommended businesses utilize store logos and fonts to "brand" a store on bags, tags and labels.

"Those serve as walking advertisements," Tetley said. "they serve as advertisements long after the purchase is made."

Tetley reminded business owners to keep their store interiors flexible.

"Use backdrops to make merchandise pop," she said, "but change the color of the backdrop to reflect new merchandise or seasonal items.

"Stores should be set up to act as 'pinball machines,'" she continued. "They should keep drawing the customer to the back of the store and keep the eye moving."

Tetley recommended placing clearance merchandise at the back of the store, to entice customers all the way through the business to reach the bargains.

"Chances are they'll see something else they want along the way," she said.

Tetley also recommended grouping merchandise by color or according to product.

"Many stores will provide information about the product," she continued. "Offering samples is also a good way to entice a customer to buy a particular item. Group 'staff favorites' together, to give the merchandise another level of interest to the product."

Tetley urged business owners to look at their stores from a customer's point of view, taking in signage, logos, entrances and windows and merchandising displays to see if the facility was welcoming to shoppers.

Tetley urged retailers to change window displays and outside decor every three to six weeks to keep customer interest strong.

"Consider placing benches out in front of the store so husbands can sit while the wives shop or customers can wait for their rides to arrive," Tetley said. "Benches are comfortable and friendly."

Hemmer said the next phase of the plan would encompass residential development.

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