Campaign Aiming At Holiday Sales

November 8, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — The recent push by the Neighborhood Business Alliance (NBA) to get city residents to do their holiday shopping with merchants is just the beginning of a new branding effort that the group hopes will end up doing a lot more.

Launched less than two weeks ago with an outdoor ad campaign and a kickoff event held at Art of the Table in the Wealthy Street Business District, "Shop Outside the Box" has been geared to send holiday traffic and dollars to shops, service businesses and restaurants in the city's 20 neighborhood business districts.

The campaign alerts shoppers to "multiple and varied treasures" at more than 200 locally owned places in every nook and cranny of the city, and its mission is to expand the horizon of the typical mall shopper to think beyond the big boxes found on the busiest streets.

NBA President Leigh VanderMolen, who owns Kava House on

Lake Drive SE
in the Eastown Business District, pointed out that shops across the city offer one-of-a-kind gift items and food generally not available in the malls. She added that shop owners also make these offerings in a less hectic atmosphere than what is found in suburban shopping centers.

"We want to show Grand Rapids that shopping doesn't have to be a hassle, but enjoyable," said VanderMolen.

The outside-the-box idea surfaced about 18 months ago from an NBA strategy session that focused on marketing the neighborhood business associations. A new logo for the NBA and a new slogan — "the voice of neighborhood business" — got the effort underway late last year.

Then the neighborhood campaign emerged early this year and officially went public, with Mayor George Heartwell leading the drive's unveiling on Oct. 29.

But it's unlikely the campaign will drop after residents shop, as the NBA plans to take it even further long after all the gifts are opened.

"We'd love to expand this to have 'Eat Outside the Box' and 'Play Outside the Box.' The current effort is meant to be the first stage of a multi-phased campaign," said Sharon Evoy, executive director of the Neighborhood Specialist Program, which enacts NBA programs.

"We want people to drive a bit slower when they're going through these neighborhood districts to see what they can find and then stop in and visit some of these merchants, because I'll bet there is a lot out there that people are just not aware of," she added.

Evoy said the campaign isn't about stopping shoppers from going to the malls. Rather, the drive is about encouraging them to also take a look at what merchants in the business district offer shoppers, especially those looking for unique gifts.    

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