Sometimes you need Santa’s help

Sometimes you need Santa’s help

Last night Community Main Street Cedar Falls put on a “Jingle and Mingle” event to celebrate the holiday shopping season. Despite the bitterly cold weather, thousands came out to shop local.

Spotlight Style Boutique and Salon engaged in a unique strategy to get noticed- they had Santa on the downtown corner cross street wishing folks Merry Christmas and encouraging them to take a short luminaria lit path off the downtown drag to their little boutique just half a block away.

So what?

I’ve lived in Cedar Falls for many years, I didn’t know that this particular shop existed. The owners leveraged this special holiday event to attract new customers in a way in keeping with the spirit. While not every shop needs to recruit Mr. or Mrs. Claus to attract customers to their store, here are several other ideas that struck me while enjoying my evening on Main.

The Staff

We walked in to one of my personal favorite downtown stores, Vintage Iron, and were greeted with a staff person dressed shoe to hat in holiday attire. More importantly, she was engaging, kind, and supportive in helping us make our shopping experience fun! She overheard my wife mention that she loved an Owl ornament and immediately directed us to several others which she thought were also cute. This type of personal engagement would not have been possible unless this owner had multiple, well trained, staff hanging out to help customers. As a frequent customer of Vintage Iron, I know they usually have two people working on a normal day. I counted no fewer than four staff working last night to help customers. An added bonus- there were meatballs, wine, and other specialty foods for taste- which leads me to my second point;

The Goodies

Milk and Cookies are great for Santa, but why not ‘wow’ your potential customers by going above and beyond? At World’s Window we were greeted with samples from a crock pot of Women’s Bean Project Chilie. Needless to say we bought a pack of the delicious Chilie- and also- a pack of their 10 bean soup! Great mission, great food!

Alternatively, having a wine bottle out with small cups for people to serve themselves does not embody the same experience as having someone who is actively recruiting people to try your goodies. While shopping in Sassy Chic, a staff person identified me with my empty wine glass from another retailer and said, “you have got to try this Godiva chocolate shot with sprinkles- let me go grab one for you.” True to her word, it was delicious, and we ended up spending more time in the store.

The Smells

I’m cheating here, but in our local Here’s What’s Popping specialty popcorn shop, the most amazing smells greeted customers when their door opened. They were actively making popcorn while customers were there- along with proving some popcorn treats for everyone to sample. Similarly the sweet smells from Candy Blossoms were enticing as well- they even provided free fudge samples!

There was another shop that we visited that really blew us (my wife and I) away, smell-wise. Basket of Daisies had a distinct smell in every single section of their store. Holly and I were so amazed, in fact, that we actively looked for Glade plugins in the store.

Any way your business can engage customers (smell, sight, taste, sound) gives you an advantage to stick out.


Everyone wins when everyone plays. One discouraging thing my wife and I experienced was that some businesses were closed during Jingle and Mingle. One in particular we came out to Main Street expecting to find open in order to purchase an item. It was a lost opportunity for this owner, and it left a negative perception in our eyes about it being closed during an event- especially when the vast majority of other firms were participating. Don’t be ‘that guy’ (or gal).

Final Thoughts

Much of our enjoyment that evening was set by Community Main Street (e.g. having the Grinch, elves, and of course, Santa there). Many, many other memorable moments happened because of each of the retail shops made an effort. For example, Taylor Vet Clinic, although not located on Main Street proper, sponsored a horse drawn buggy. Our local night club Jokers had red and green lights shining on the downtown area. Almost every single business on Main Street had lights and decorations prominently displayed t in their storefronts and inside of each of their stores.  This kind of collaborative effort does yield results!  The best part: you don’t even need to be part of a larger event to bring surprise and delight to your customers this holiday season!

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