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  • BIG reasons your downtown should stay open later see more

    While we are moving to the European standard for downtown experiences, including dining and shopping later in the evenings, most downtowns in North America haven’t adapted. More than ever, people want to spend time downtown after work and school, during the evening hours. Locals and visitors want to be able to wind down from their day with later dining, shopping, and entertainment. They want to be in one central, vibrant area where they can find all of these activities within walking distance. They want to be able to live, work and play downtown – without having to get in their cars between activities.

    Here are THE downtown trends that create experiences for both locals and visitors:

    • Locals and visitors are eating later in the evenings
    • Everyone wants a pedestrian-friendly, intimate, safe setting
    • Streets kept lively with musicians, artisans, vendors, food trucks and open-air markets
    • Plazas have long been a European city fixture – adopting this key city element with programming has become a sure way to have year-round activity and maintain vendors
    • Adopting a mix of specialty food and beverage retailers, with merchandise like organic foods, fresh cuts of meat and unique bakery goods, in place of traditional stores
    • Entertainment venues: movies, performing arts, pubs, and nightlife
    • Options for those moving into or staying downtown: hotels, loft apartments above shops, townhouses, and condominiums
    • Narrower streets and wider sidewalks
    • Tree-lined streets (planted every 35 feet or 10 meters) that create a beautiful setting, a sense of intimacy, a connection with the environment, and shade during the warmer months.
    • Public markets are shifting their hours to stay open during the evening hours

    In the past, businesses and malls were closed on Sundays and during the evening hours. Today developers understand the importance of open-air shopping areas that are open for business seven days a week from 10 in the morning until 9 or 10 at night. Destination Resorts can also follow this model with an orchestrated business mix and leases that define consistent daily operating hours. Rural downtowns can also reap the benefits of staying open later hours, with a shift to staying open at least until 8:00pm.

    BIG reasons you should stay open later (at least until 9:00pm for urban areas and 8:00pm for rural areas):

    • The overwhelming majority of all non-lodging visitor spending takes place in a pedestrian-friendly setting that includes shopping, dining & entertainment.
    • 75% of ALL retail sales in the U.S. take place between 4:00pm and midnight.
    • 70% of consumer spending in brick & mortar stores takes place after 6:00pm
    • Research has found that if you extend your operating duration by just 2 hours, the average retailer works 20% less. Profits will always exceed any increase in expenses.
    • Fixed costs remain the same, do not increase based on additional hours open.
    • “Shop Local” programs ONLY work if you are open during convenient, later in the day, hours.
    • Visitors will stay in town for the night if there are things to do late – after 6:00pm.
    • It makes you a desirable place for the Creative Class to live, work, invest and play.

    There are a number of strategies that will make the transition to staying open later, easier to accomplish:

    • Create a “Shared Employee” program that would hire employees full-time and manage a schedule of a few hours at a number of businesses during one shift, to accommodate special schedule needs of businesses without having to hire too many employees.
    • Work with a local temporary hire agency
    • Shift your hours. Open later (maybe around 11:00am) to stay open later and not increase operation hours.
    • Hire some part-time workers to get the extra help you need.
    • Utilize a college or university-based “Retail Ambassador” or internship program. (This is particularly effective for destination resorts.)

    Your downtown has the potential to be a major draw during evening hours, if it can modify its business mix, pedestrian setting and hours of operation. Not only will this increase downtown spending, it will improve quality of life, increase overnight stays and become a catalyst for even more community revitalization.

  • Roger Brooks posted an article
    Why we say your downtown should be open in the evening hours. see more

    The quote “70% of all consumer bricks-and-mortar spending now takes place after 6:00 pm” was first studied and reported in Alexander Communication’s “Downtown Reporter” a couple of years ago. It was also confirmed by the National Retail Federation, independent retail chains, and by mall developers including Simon Properties and Westfield. It was reported in Business Week, the Wall Street Journal and other publications as well.

    Consider the following:

    We are slowly moving to the European standard – we are eating dinner later and later and we are shopping later and later. This is why retailers and malls in the 70s closed at 6:00 pm and were only open 12 – 5pm on Sundays, but now are open until at least 9:00 pm seven days a week.

    Every successful retail mall, every lifestyle retail center (now replacing many downtowns) is open from 10:00 am to 9:00 or 10:00 pm seven days a week.

    This is why downtowns are dying at an alarming rate.

    Downtowns are transforming into evening hour destinations. Dining, entertainment, cultural arts, special events. The days of buying socks and underwear downtown are, for the most part, over.

    Why is it that EVERY SINGLE national retailer stays open late into the evening hours? Walmart, Sears, BassPro Shops, Scheels, Fred Meyer (out west), Lowe’s, Home Depot, Staples, Office Max, Best Buy, Safeway, Raley’s, Ace Hardware stores, etc., etc., etc. They do it for ONE big reason: During the day people are at work or are at school. When they are OFF work, downtown is closed. So they head to Walmart or to places that are open.

    Visitors, during the day, are in Disney World, or are out fishing, hunting, biking, hiking, playing golf, etc. They spend their money at the end of the day – are you open? So this applies to both visitors and local residents as well.

    This phrase is backed up by research. Below is a link to a PDF validating the research. The reason my name, Roger Brooks, is associated with it is that I’ve spent most of my career trying to resurrect dying downtowns. No retail chain, mall developer, lifestyle center developer, outlet mall developer, or Downtown Disney, is going to tell the world about this research. They don’t want downtowns to compete with them. So you close at 6:00, they stay open, and they benefit and downtowns continue to die at an alarming rate. This is happening in so many communities. Go to Europe and see it first hand.

    We talked to numerous downtowns who have extended their shopping hours and they are seeing HUGE increases in retail sales as a result.

    This is retail – not restaurants. Most restaurants are now open until 10:00 pm. Even they are moving later and later, but this research is based on retail sales, not restaurant or entertainment facilities.

    Click here to download the original research article from Alexander Communications where WE got the data.

    In a nutshell, we aren’t making these things up, and if you want your downtown to be successful you need to make it a place that people can come and spend time in the evening hours and on weekends.


  • Here are some general rules to help you deal with too many window fliers. see more

    Our hearts go out to retailers, particularly in smaller downtowns, when they are asked almost daily to post a flier in their store window for the next pancake feed, community event, school event, special sale, money-raising benefit, plus posters promoting goods or brands being sold, and the list goes on and on.

    You also have your own “open” sign, your business hours, and often something that promotes your own special sale or event.

    The challenge? Once you have more than four posters or signs in your display windows, studies show that shoppers will simply ignore them all. Too many posters reduce the appeal of your storefront and block potential buyers from seeing what you have displayed behind the glass.

    Here are some general rules to help you deal with the quandary:

    • Never put up more than four promotional fliers or posters at one time.
    • Make sure they are NOT text heavy. Rarely will someone stand in front of a shop window for several minutes reading a flier. General rule: No more than 50 words (total) on a flier or poster.
    • Keep them together: four wide or two top and two below.
    • Never keep a poster up for more than three weeks. Otherwise, they become “old news” and will be ignored along with any new posters you add. Write on the back of the poster the date it should come down, and every day when you come to work, look at the date. When it’s time, remove the “expired” flier.
    • Make sure the poster will help your business or will promote something you are a strong advocate for, beyond just posting it in your window.

    When you have to turn down the next person who asks, just blame us. Or, better yet, have them tell you which of the existing fliers should come down and be replaced with theirs! The goal is to keep your business thriving, and keeping your shop windows attractive and uncluttered will help. This is just one of many little strategies that, when added up, will contribute to continued success.