IMG_3437 Every independent shopping district has tried a Girls' Night Out event, but Excelsior, MN has really figured out how to draw a crowd week after week and here's why. Tonight, I witnessed a Botox injection on Water Street. Right there, in the heart of boutique row, with a crowd looking on, sidewalk diners peering over their menus and cars zipping past a doctor from a local clinic pumped the stuff into the forehead of a relaxed looking blond. People clapped. And then it was on to the '80s Diva Costume Contest. It's action every minute on Girls' Night in Excelsior. Seriously, other retail areas could learn a lot from this small lakefront town, which has parlayed its summer Girls' Night Out program into a real draw for local businesses. Here are some takeaways:

  • Be organized. Have a committee, put together a calendar, build a website. Put fliers and posters in every store window.
  • Get all the retailers on board. Just like mall retailers must keep mall hours, businesses in downtown Excelsior are unified about staying open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays between May and August. Power in numbers.
  • Theme it. When each Girls' Night is it's own event, customers are inspired to return.
  • Offer a real deal. Twenty percent store discounts, free chair massages, buy one, get one – stores and restaurants do what they can to make shopping on Thursday nights feel special. (A list of promos can be picked up in every store, but I'd argue stores should make their specific deals even more prominent.)
  • Karaoke in the street. It draws attention, involves the public and it's funny.
  • Prizes. Real prizes. People love prizes. The winner of tonight's costume contest received $400 worth of products at a local skin clinic. That will inspire the ladies to not only show up, but do so in neon spandex and lace. Like, totally.