Retailers hoping for busy Friday

Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's not all about sales, but merchants in downtown Cape Girardeau hope to get a boost Friday when thousands of revelers and shoppers come to Old Town Cape's annual open house.

It's an event, organizers say, that combines shopping for the perfect gift with family entertainment.

"People come down either as a couple or family. They use it as an opportunity to open the Christmas season," said Old Town Cape director Marla Mills. "A lot of them do more window shopping that night than actual shopping. If they see something they like, then they come back later on to make a purchase."

There will be plenty to keep people entertained at the open house, which goes from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Santa and his elves will be on hand offering free photos in the Hecht's building, and there will be free rides in a horse-drawn carriage picking up fares in front of the Billiard Center.

Carolers from Teen Challenge and Central High School will walk the streets singing holiday favorites, and one person will leave with $2,000 toward a downtown shopping spree.

The contest put on by Old Town Cape requires entrants to visit 12 of the 23 participating merchants, mostly on Main and Spanish streets, either Friday or Saturday. Every person entering is given a card that he or she can have stamped by every shop on the list.

The winner will be announced Monday. The prize money must be spent at participating downtown stores.

Mills believes getting buyers in the door at these boutiques will help keep the registers ringing until Christmas.

"It gets more people downtown and makes them get exposed to places they've never been yet. Hopefully they check it out and want to come back," she said, adding that the event is mostly festive and not really about sales.

Merchants mostly seem to think participation is worth their while.

"We probably have 15 to 25 people flowing continuously through the store," said Roger Lang, owner of Lang Jewelers at 126 N. Main St.

"Maybe we won't make a lot of sales Friday night, but what you see is a husband and wife come in to get their card stamped, and while we're talking she'll spot something and look at it just a little bit. Then later on you'll see the husband come back in looking for it."

Deb Maevers of Pastimes Antiques at 45 N. Main St. said she isn't sure what the impact of the event is but she'll sure keep participating.

"We usually don't generate a lot of sales that night. People don't have shopping on their mind; they're interested in seeing everything and getting the kids to see Santa and the $2,000 shopping spree. They don't want to carry stuff around," she said.

335-6611, extension 245

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