Chamber Chat - NCRMA

Mar 26

By Meg Moss


The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) is a nonprofit association, organized in 1902 to improve the business climate for retail merchants in our state. Over 100 years later, NCRMA is still the voice of the retail industry in North Carolina. They provide advocacy at the state level in regards to legislation that will affect anyone that generates sales tax. They also provide training for retailers.


The Sanford Area Growth Alliance Chamber of Commerce is a member of NCRMA, and thus we are able to reap the benefits of their work. Just this week, the Director of Member Services for NCRMA, Jeanne Eury spent the morning in Sanford speaking with local retailers about how to maximize their exposure during the April 22nd Sanford Streetfest and Fireworks event.  Downtown events are an excellent opportunity for local businesses to showcase themselves for existing and new customers.


Eury suggested that retailers think of the Streetfest as a “conference”, and the downtown merchants as the “exhibitors”. While merchants may not experience greater sales the day of the event, they are exposing themselves to new potential customers who will return to see them after the event. It’s really a marketing day, not a sales day. In many cases, people don’t want to purchase items because they don’t want to carry them around, so Eury suggested that merchants offer to hold their purchases for pick up once the event is over. If the customer is from out of town, the merchant could even offer to ship their purchase.


Be sure to dress up your windows, set your store up a little differently from the norm, keep your door open, and even make your store smell good. Good, but not overbearing scents are enticing for shoppers.


If you don’t already have shirts with your logo, now is the time to order them. Have staff (or even just hire someone for the day) to walk through the festival with your shirts on. And stay open for an hour after the event is over. This is when many people will actually make a purchase – on their way home. Remember, although it is an expense of time and/or money to stay open one extra hour, think if it as a marketing expense. Consider how much would you pay to gain a new customer.


But let’s take a step back and look at what merchants should do before the day of the event. Each store or restaurant’s website and social media should clearly indicate that they are excited to see everyone at the Streetfest. Send an email to your VIP customers inviting them to come see you during the event; and even have a VIP hour or discount available to just those you sent an email to.


Downtown businesses – work together and do cross referrals. For example, if a customer buys a meal at the Fairview Dairy Bar, give them a gift certificate for $5.00 off of services at the Cabana Beauty Salon. And vice-versa. Get creative with the other merchants and restaurants to come up with something that will benefit the both of you.


Within a week after the event, send an email to the people who visited your store (yes, collect contact information during the event) and invite them back. You could offer a special, a VIP hour, or offer a free class that has something to do with your business. Take an honest look and see what worked and what didn’t and share that information with other merchants.


The April 22nd Sanford Streetfest and Fireworks will be here before you know it. I encourage our downtown merchants to take advantage of the tips we received from the NCRMA, and I encourage everyone to attend all the Streetfest events! For more information on the event, including a schedule, visit

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