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Strategies to Encourage Holiday Shopping in Your Business District

With the holiday season upon us, there are a number of things we can expect - colder weather, overplayed Christmas songs, ugly sweater parties,

Overall, consumer spending makes up about 70% of U.S. GDP, and 20-30% of those retail sales occur during the holiday season in the last two months of the year. Back in August, we took time to unpack consumer spending overall, and get a sense of what people in the United States spend most of their money on.

Though personal needs and gifts are only a portion of consumers' budgets, holiday shopping has increased fairly steadily in the past decade.

There is an anticipated 4% increase in holiday shopping sales this year, and most of that growth will happen online.

Online purchases will account for approximately 53% of that growth. This uptick in online sales may come as a surprise to some, but we saw this increase from the retail restructuring analysis we did in 2017. Even a couple of years ago, online shopping was growing, but 2019 looks to be even stronger, especially compared to 2018 (which likely took a hit because of national economic uncertainty and the government shutdown).

At Fourth Economy, we pride ourselves in being practitioners of vibrant communities, so as holiday shopping increases, are there ways to redirect some of the holiday purchases into local economies?

We often work with clients who want to use creatives strategies to bring more shopping into their local business district. Projects we’ve worked on - like the Business District plans for East Carson Street or Hazelwood, PA - emphasize the importance of coordinated marketing efforts between businesses to tell the community’s story and encourage visitors.


Small Business Saturday, a tradition kicked off by American Express in 2010, is a national event that occurs on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to provide a counterweight to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Stores are encourages to hold one-day promotions and share what new products and services they can provide for local shoppers. Communities could consider participating in the national event or even host their own variety.

Markets and craft fairs are very popular around the holiday season, and you could even find a unique local partner to host your market. The National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia hosts an annual Holiday Pop Up Shop that features local artisans. If you spend $75 or more at the shop you can visit the Museum for free.

Ongoing Promotions

Pittsburgh’s Downtown Holiday Shopping Passport encourages local spending over a period of four weeks. Participants who turn in stamped "passports" after visiting a series of local shops are entered to win donated weekly prizes.

Any business district that does not have a coordinated marketing plan might be missing out on important opportunities to broadcast the success of their local companies. The holidays are a perfect time to accelerate these efforts, sharing the benefits and fun of local shopping.

Are there things you do to promote your local businesses?


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