December 17, 2012

Main Street USA

I can’t find a parking spot.

Once I do, I dodge traffic hoping against death by SUV as I walk toward the land of big decorations and wreaths of grandeur.   I seriously think for a moment, “how much does one pay to store 16 6-foot Christmas balls in various shades of red and green for 11 months a year?”  Then I remember they were up at like… Halloween!… to encourage conspicuous consumption.  However, the ability to think lasts just brief moment as I dodge cunning little elves and their exasperated parents.

I am here to purchase one “must have” item. I am in a long line that snakes its way toward what feels like the North Pole – from Florida.  The store associate has been hassled all day. She barely says, “thank you.”  I barely say, “you’re welcome.”  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!  Frustrated and hungry, I venture to the food court, where finding a table is impossible (finding a clean one will restore your faith in Santa and the Easter Bunny, combined). Does this at all sound familiar? This is only the tip of the frustration-iceberg that is holiday shopping at any mall: It’s draining, frustrating and to be honest, I dread it.

I fondly remember the Norman Rockwell painting of Christmas below, that hung in my Grandparent’s house; to me this is what shopping was about. Not merely getting the best price and crossing a name off the list, but the full experience of walking down a beautifully decorated “Main Street USA” taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the holiday season. I’ll say it:  I want Irving Berlin and Burl Ives all wrapped up into one.

However we live in 2012. Luckily, even now the benefits to shopping on “Main Street USA” remain available, (with the added benefits of technology).  Locally for me a modern representation of a “Main Street USA” is Larimer Square in downtown Denver.  Consider this a #retailLove shopping experience:

I visit the Larimer Square website so I can coordinate my visit with the time when the carolers are walking down the street.  I note the complimentary valet parking (of which I will take advantage). As I walk into one of the locally owned stores I am immediately greeted by a store associate and offered apple cider or hot chocolate.  Most big chain stores can’t do that.  Why?  Averages…the average number of spills, the average dexterity of associates who might not be able to pour a hot beverage (No, not kidding), the average lack of desire to actually serve the customer.   There is a decided lack of operational efficiency in getting and receiving my cider.  It takes a minute.  It takes an associate off the floor.  It takes #RetailLove.  In a chain, no one store generally makes or breaks the others.  However, on Main Street, each store matters and is generally “headquartered” in your community and staffed by your neighbors.  And finally, as I shake off the cold, there is the sound of holiday music but not mayhem.  This is how shopping is meant to happen.

They provide me the time and space to wander the store, yet are easily accessible and pleasant when I need help purchasing a gift.  Another local store I enter is accepting contributions to a food drive that benefits a local homeless shelter in exchange for 20% off my purchase. As I walk down the street I am admiring the store windows that have been cheerfully decorated by local professional artists (this year Larimer Square held the first ever Yuletide Window Walk). And when my feet are tired, I have a number of tasty, clean restaurants to select from.

As we race through the Holiday Season and eagerly complete our shopping to do list, slow down and remember the journey through #retailLove. By shopping at your local “Main Street USA” you can cross those names off your list while  creating memories of Christmases past.