Free concerts are a fun and foolproof way to drive foot traffic to a shopping center. Even with a grassroots marketing budget, a little creativity can lead to a successful family-friendly event that attracts shoppers, showcases retailers, and creates visibility for a center in the community.

Just last month, we hosted an inaugural summer concert at our Westlake Shopping Center, located in Daly City, California. Westlake Shopping Center is a large, sprawling center, and the concert was designed to encourage shoppers to wander outside their typical shopping routes and experience the diverse retail options throughout the property that might be new to them.

To promote the event, we ran advertisements in the San Francisco Examiner (which included an e-blast to subscribers), and in the free local community paper. We also spread the word through lawn signage at the center, counter cards inside the shops, flyers, and Facebook posts.

Retailers like Trader Joe’s, Home Depot, Massage Envy, Baskin Robbins, Cost Plus World Market, and others got in on the action, setting up booths at the concert site to offer free product samples, games and entertainment, and promotional materials. Activities were split up on either end of the shopping center to encourage continuous traffic throughout the property. On one end of the shopping center was a large spin-to-win prize wheel, which offered prizes from participating retailers. If shoppers brought in a copy of the newspaper ad promoting the event, they were entitled to an additional spin. Not only did this build excitement among shoppers, it also provided our event organizers with an additional measure of the success and reach of our ads. On the other side of the center were children’s activities, including a balloon animal artist, face painting, and Tony, the Baskin Robbins mascot, who was available for photos with youngsters.

Special care was given to hand-picking bands that are popular in the greater San Francisco region in order to create relevance among our key demographics. Fusion, a top 40 pop, dance, R&B, and hip-hop band, was chosen to appeal to younger shoppers. The band also has a large Asian-American following, which is an important consumer demographic in the Daly City region. Ticket to Ride, a Beatles tribute band, was selected to appeal to the older crowds. The event was a great success, with an estimated 2,500 people visiting the shopping center throughout the day, and event organizers say there may be movement toward a full concert series at the center next summer.

Keeping customers coming back for more

A full Summer Concert Series is exactly what we did in our Suburban Square Shopping Center in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, offering a new concert every Wednesday throughout July. As Suburban Square’s general manager, I came up with the idea after tracking and analyzing sales at the lifestyle center and discovering that, after February and August, July is the third slowest month, due to many consumers taking vacations. I approached the owner of The St. James, a Suburban Square restaurant, to see if they would be interested in co-hosting a concert series to attract shoppers and boost sales during the slower months at the center. July was chosen as the ideal month, as it’s cooler than the dog days of August; and the 9 p.m. closing time on Wednesdays would encourage a mid-week uptick in foot traffic as shoppers visited stores after the concert.

THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA: Phyllis Chapell & SIORA play multi-lingual jazz

Once the bands were picked, and the schedule finalized, word was spread through Suburban Square’s Facebook page, our website, local media advertising, and signage throughout the shopping center.

The concerts, which took place in the main courtyard of the shopping center, featured acts including The Tonebenders, W&E Swing, The Rockafillys, Phyllis Chapell & SIORA, and Beats Walkin’. All performances were free to the public.

Various tenants in the shopping center have seen an increase in shopper activity when a concert was taking place.

We also spoke with Lindsay Gilmour, lead soprano singer for The Rockafillys, about their participation in the Suburban Square’s Summer Concert series. Here’s what she shared with us.

Tell us about The Rockafillys. When were you formed, and how many members do you have? What kind of music do you perform?

Lindsay Gilmour: Five years ago, after many years as the lead singer of her swing blues band The Mighty Rhythm Kings, Melissa Martin fulfilled her vision for creating a dance band with an ensemble of female singers. The Rockafillys were born - merging American roots rockabilly and jump blues with Andrews Sisters style harmonies – all held together with a tight rhythm section and Jim Fogarty's blazing hot guitar.

How did you get involved in the Suburban Square summer concert series?

Gilmour: I serve with Mark Curran - Suburban Square’s general manager - on the board of Fair Food Philly, a local nonprofit. Mark heard my band at a Fair Food fundraiser and asked if we would be part of the July music series at Suburban Square.

EASY LISTENING: Fans of all ages enjoy the Suburban Square concert series

Do you do these types of events often?

Gilmour: We play outdoor concert series all around the Philly area throughout the summer. We also play regularly for swing dances and have a monthly evening residency at Earth Bread and Brewery in Mt. Airy - the second Sunday of each month from 8 p.m. - 10 p.m.

How did you help to promote your appearance at Suburban Square?

Gilmour: We promoted the gig on our web page, with multiple postings and reminders on Facebook, and sent it out in our monthly email that reaches around 1,000 people. It was also promoted in Fair Food's weekly newsletter since Suburban Square is a member.

SWING DANCING: The Rockafillys perform in Suburban Square’s summer concert series

SWING DANCING: The Rockafillys perform in Suburban Square’s summer concert series

For a family-oriented event, how do you ensure concerts are fun for fans of all ages?

Gilmour: The Rockafillys play music that is well-known and easy to love. Even children have heard a lot of the songs before, and they are the first to get up and dance.

Both the concerts at Westlake Shopping Center and Suburban Square show that shopping center owners can plan a fun event no matter their budget. Whether it’s a one-day event or a summer concert series, shoppers will be attracted to some cool tunes and hot summer shopping.

  • CATEGORY: General
  • DATE: Tuesday, August 5, 2014