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Late hours may boost downtown retailers

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

The Lincolnton Downtown Development Association (DDA) recently launched a new program aimed at aligning local businesses’ hours of operation with current consumer trends, hoping to boost sales in the process.

BOLT (Businesses Open Late on Thursdays) Downtown kicked off last week, when more than a dozen independent, locally owned retailers stayed open until 8 p.m.

The idea was proposed at the October Merchants’ Meeting, Brad Guth, director of the Business and Community Development Department, told the Times-News on Wednesday. The DDA organizes the regular meetings with retailers to discuss plans for coordinated retail events.

Participating businesses include: 2nd Tyme Finds, A-1 Express, Chic Custom Creations, Court Street Grille, Fausto Coffee, Gigi’s Consignments, Heavenly Paws Grooming, Hi-Lites, Iron Station Thunder, Plum Crazy, Ride-A-Bike, Southern Charm Winery, Stylin’ on Main, Treasures on Main and UMAR Arts Center.

Market-analysis data recently collected by the DDA support the findings of a national study that indicated that 70 percent of all consumer spending occurs after 6 p.m., according to a press release it issued about BOLT.

The results from the local consumer survey illustrate that more people shop after 5 p.m. each day than any other time, except Sundays between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., the release noted.

“Seventy percent is a large number,” Guth said. “But if you look at the percentage in reverse, it is even more startling. If 70 percent of consumer spending is occurring after 6 p.m., only 30 percent is before 6 p.m. So, retailers closed after 6 p.m. are forgoing 70 percent of their potential sales.”

“These new trends in retail sales will continue to have a very negative effect on small businesses that stick to the 9-to-5 business model,” he added.

“Today’s shoppers are much more aware of the importance of shopping locally, but it still has to be convenient and fit their schedule.”

Marie Brooks, owner of Gigi’s Consignments, plans to be open for BOLT Downtown through the holiday season.

“I guess because I’m a new business owner, I am willing to try new things,” she said in the release. “I know that when I had a 9-to-5 job, I could only shop in the evenings and on the weekend.”

She was pleased with the opening night of BOLT last Thursday.

“We made a $60 sale the first night,” Brooks added. “One of the moms waiting on her daughter at Extreme Edge Dance Studio came in and bought a few things. There’s a lot of traffic on Main Street and lots of people walking. Once the word gets out and everyone opens, it will be great.”

The current plan is for the program to run through the end of the year.

“If it proves to be profitable, I would expect retailers would be interested in expanding it to other nights,” Guth said.

The DDA has also added an extra night of carriage rides from 6-9 p.m. and Santa visits from 4-8 p.m. starting Nov. 29 to support BOLT Downtown. Both will be Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through December.

“After this trial period, downtown businesses may find that being open 5-9 p.m. is more profitable than 9-5,” Guth added.

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