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Thread: Closing off downtown for special events: does it REALLY hurt the downtown businesses?

  1. #1

    Closing off downtown for special events: does it REALLY hurt the downtown businesses?

    We have an annual event - OHIO BIKE WEEK - that draws tens of thousands of bikers, where we barricade off our whole downtown from Thurs-Sun. Our downtown merchants, save for the restaurants and bars complain that they get little if any business from these types of events. Is there really a thing such as "residual business" that these events create by people seeing their knick-knacks during this weekend or is it a fallacy? I tend to think the latter, due to the amount of events going on in the streets, that these event-goers are oblivious to most of our businesses and what they have to offer. In our case bikers have little need for sailing/boating supplies, artwork or antiques for example. Apparently in Sturgis during their BIKEWEEK, the business owners rent out their spaces for the week to businesses that cater to bikers, like tattoo parlors, clothing stores, etc. Overall, is this a negative impact or positive impact for downtown businesses? What are your experiences? Are these events good for downtowns overall?
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  2. #2
    I used to live in a town that would close off a few blocks for a weekly evening "farmer's market." Over time, it became less farmers and more low-rent booths like face painting, hippie jewelry, and even stuff like realtors. Last I heard, most downtown merchants griped about lost business and even closed early. When I worked at a downtown merchant, we'd almost always have to deal with shoplifting kids and such during the event.

    My guess is that they probably aren't great for the merchants, but might be good for the town overall.. But how do you account for intangibles such as community?

    Also, not all events are created equally. I suspect "Christmas previews" that are designed to bring people in to shop at stores are probably better for the merchants than events that tend to bring in merchants that aren't usually downtown.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Retail, yes.

    Especially if they depend on the parking they are losing.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I agree with Square&Compass's comments about how one measures the less tangible elements of events like this. I organize a lot of public events for my job and I see a tremendous value in building social capital among residents with things like this.

    I think there may also be another positive feature of these events, especially if they are a once a year event where business access is hampered only one day, as opposed to weekly as with a farmer's market. Our downtown is still in the process of revitalizing itself and a big part of that is changing people's attitudes about the space (which many associate with the not-so-great times of the past when it was neglected and a little scary). Events like this may bring people to downtown that normally would not consider it and, once more people are familiar and comfortable with the area, could lead to heavier use in the future. It is possible that lost revenue today could mean more commercial traffic tomorrow. Afterall, many businesses pay serious money to have their logo attached to events like this. Having the public come to where your store is, means everyone sees your banner for free (its called your store front and sign).

    Just my two cents
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I posted a similar question a while back
    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=30386

    We go through the same thing here. I would think a business owner would take advantage of few thousand boots on the ground in front of their store, even if their type of business doesn't fit well with the theme of the event. But store owners close their doors and gripe when parking is blocked.

    I've thought of suggesting giving business owners free booth space in front of their store to try to help their business, but we just moved our festival to the park instead.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    if your downtown parking is metered, i've seen "Free Parking" days to help make up for the closures.

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