Downtown Retailers Attract Business Amid Pandemic

Todays News


With a pandemic shuttering many consumers at home and away from crowds, retailers in the region face a particular challenge this year drumming up business. Marketing efforts on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday sought to remind customers it’s still easy and vital to support local stores.

An online directory at, part of a broader marketing strategy funded by the Sarasota Downtown Improvement District, worked to drive many locals shopping for gifts this year to mom-and-pop shops. “When our community needs us most, we are always there for them,” said Laura Kresl, whose Pro It Out Marketing firm set up the directory for the DID.

The website over the last weekend, traditionally the most important all year for American retailers, saw more than 3,600 digital engagements. The marketing effort also unleased $500,000 in television advertising on local airwaves.

A sweepstakes with downtown retailers also offers reason for consumers to spend money locally for a chance for prizes such as a meal for two at Patrick’s 1481 or a night stay at Art Ovation Hotel. Consumers can enter once a day per retailer where they spend some of their holiday budget.

The local efforts come as groups like the Florida Retail Federation encourage support for local retailers throughout the state.  Part of that has been reminding customers who flocked to websites and laptop computer screens for shopping instead of malls and downtowns that they can spend their money from home without sending their dollars far away.

“Florida’s retail industry is resilient. Stores were quick to pivot to offer delivery and curbside options so customers can shop safely and help prevent the spread of illness,” wrote FRF President and CEO Scott Shalley in a guest editorial. “Many stores invested in new technologies, like contactless payment systems, dividers and signage to keep their teams and customers safe.”

The website includes links to local retailers with the ability to have goods shipped or delivered curbside to cars contact-free.

“We are trying to put out a strong campaign with merchants to help show that shopping locally is just as easy as it is to go to Amazon or Google,” Kresl said. “You can buy as easily locally as you can with everybody else.”

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