Mainstreet Steamboat Springs hosts retail workshop

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— Steamboat Springs retailers filed into Centennial Hall on Monday morning for a workshop about reinventing or resurrecting their businesses.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs hosted the event, and Manager Tracy Barnett said she’s heard from some downtown retailers that they’re tired and could use a shot in the arm or fresh ideas.

With help from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Mainstreet was able to bring in retail consultant Mechelle Beddoe to facilitate Monday’s workshop. Beddoe is a successful designer with Classic Colorado Style, based in Loveland, and has experience in retail and information technology management.

Beddoe led an interactive, two-hour meeting to draw out what works for Steamboat Springs retailers. She also offered advice and practices from her experience in retail and design.

Many of Beddoe’s suggestions were of little to no cost except for the time involved and instead relied more on leveraging community events and relationships than paid marketing.

She emphasized “power partnerships,” in which retailers join for mutually beneficial cross promotions or activities, giving the example of a retailer providing a locally made vase to a flower shop to create extra value.

Some business owners and managers in the audience said they have traded promotional cards with other businesses.

Retailers having power partners “are critical keys to the success of your community,” Beddoe said.

Beddoe talked about reaching new customers through word of mouth and referrals in addition to retaining repeat customers by reaching out and creating relationships with them.

In addition to a concerted effort to touch base with concierge staff, Beddoe suggested creative ways to attract customers, such as a downtown scavenger hunt.

Businesses should be asking all their customers for reviews, she said, and then responding to inquiries or negative experiences shared online within 24 hours.

Referring customers to other retailers when customers are searching for a specific item can help create a relationship with that customer because they’ll remember the service, Beddoe said.

Barnett said that such an idea was introduced in past Mainstreet newsletters, and about 10 people signed up to be on a contact list for retailers to reach out and see if other stores might have a given item.

After the meeting, Barnett said she hopes more people will sign up for the list.

People can get so bogged down in their own businesses, Barnett said, that they might not be using all the tools at their disposal.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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