A group Halsey Village merchants met last week to discuss their respective possibilities of forming a merchant organization. With so much development underway at and near Halsey street, and large institution such as Prudential re-located their headquarters on Halsey Street, some are re-thinking the viable option of forming a merchant organization. Before bustling downtown shopping districts gave way to the shopping malls of today, merchant associations were commonplace. Merchants would often join together to unify a street with holiday decorations or organize hours and events, and create collective concerns to local government. Some merchant organization are set-up to designed to attract shoppers, new businesses, and increase awareness of current local businesses. Over the years Halsey Village, a section of the James Street Commons Historic District, is known for being an eclectic array of boutique businesses, and trending restaurants.
The initial meeting was brought together by Jose Rodriguez of 27 Mix, and Marty Weber of The Green Chicpea. With the beginning the conversation touching on safety and quality of life concerns, the group of merchants discussed the need of marketing for the area. Merchant associations are usually optional of merchant’s participation, and normally come with an annual fee. Although a store owner can consider a merchant association an added expense, it is one that can yield positive results on the bottom line in the right situation. When combining a strategic advertising plan with promotional activities, a merchant association can set the personality of a retail development and create incentives for customers to keep coming back.
The meeting was an Introduction to the concept of a Merchant association. There are several issues that the group had not discussed as of yet, that are necessary in determining the merits to warrants the forming an association, here are some of those considerations; Cost versus Benefit, Role of the Merchant Association, Merchant Association Fees, and Merchant Association Activities as it pertains to the special improvements district’s roles.
Cost versus Benefit
Retailer location, tenant mix in the shopping center, neighborhood demographic and venue quality are all influencing factors in the success or failure of a merchant association. Surprisingly, the actual quality of the group’s promotions is secondary to these other details. In some cases, it may be an unnecessary added expense to maintain such an organization and its activities. The strength of the association rests on the strength and commitment of its individual members.
Role of the Merchant Association
Besides building the brand of a shopping center, the merchant association works to increase traffic and resolve contacts among tenants. In some cases, the merchant association has authority to change procedures and policies, as well as lease terms and operating hours.
Merchant Association Fees
Fees of a merchant association may be assessed in a flat rate, or based on percentage of overall retail space a business occupies. The latter serves small shop owners and the former is preferred by larger space tenants such as restaurants and movie theaters. To function effectively, budget revisions are necessary from year to year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a Consumer Price Index that reflects the current median costs of common goods and services that influence the expenditures of the group.
Merchant Association Activities
Partnering with charitable organizations is a mutually beneficial way to promote retailers while supporting a cause. Annual events tied into the seasons or holidays, or arts and crafts, cultural and folk festivals can draw traffic and build client interest.
Role of Merchant organization vs Special Improvement District
Alway important to understand the role of both organization, some district have both organization while other op out for one organization to support merchant efforts.
The next meeting scheduled for January 21st and The Artisan Collective, 25 Halsey Street, time TBD