Each year, Montgomery’s EastChase hosts a diverse array of events designed to boost foot traffic and sales while also strengthening community bonds.
To the Point: “A lot of times planning events can seem daunting and expensive, but you have to think of it as advertising dollars. In small cities like Montgomery where people are always looking for something to do, hosting an event is the best way to reach new customers. Partnering with other small businesses to host an event can also be very helpful for businesses with limited resources.”- Suzanna Wasserman Edwards
Shopping malls are primarily for shopping. But, at outdoor retail complexes like Montgomery‘s EastChase, the lovely grounds and open-air public spaces offer management the chance to take the visitor experience beyond simply popping in a store and purchasing what they need (or want). EastChase has taken full advantage of these opportunities, creating and hosting a slew of annual events that draw thousands. It’s a smart marketing strategy, but according to Suzanna Wasserman Edwards, Vice President of Marketing for Crawford Square Real Estate Advisors, it does more than move merchandise.
“Prior to my joining EastChase, the property held an annual tree lighting, parade and fireworks show for several years around the holidays,” Edwards said. “In 2018, I took these beloved events and combined them into one evening event and opened the parade up to the public.” Today, the blended event—All is Bright—is one of EastChase’s longest-standing events and the most well-known.
For decades, events at shopping centers were mostly tied to the holidays, but Edwards and her team realized that they could keep the momentum going and have an even wider impact. “I have a strong background in planning events, so I took ideas from things I had done in the past to see if they would work at EastChase—and they did,” she said.
“People began to recognize EastChase as more than a place to shop, but a destination for entertainment. Each year, we began to add more and more events because they became so popular for the community, but also for our community partners. Each event is curated to engage different ages, demographics, etc. There is an event for pretty much anyone now throughout the year.”
If You Host It…
The crowds will come. “In 2022, we had more than 15,000 people attend All is Bright, along with more than 2,000 walking in the parade,” Edwards said. Puppy Palooza fetches 2,500 to 3,000 people a year; Summer Nights brings in 500-750 people each evening it’s happening; Moonlight Movies show to about 500 people; and Harvest Jam attracts 2,500 fans.
And they come from all around. EastChase uses tech called Placer.ai to gather data on its events. “People travel from Troy, Dothan, Greenville, Auburn and more,” Edwards said.
Putting the “Special” in Special Events
Edwards noted the benefits that the events bring not just to residents, who gain a great spot to gather and connect, but also to Central Alabama’s charitable groups. “Our events provide an avenue for the community to come together and enjoy this beautiful venue we have,” she said.
“Many of our events are in partnership with nonprofit organizations like the Montgomery Humane Society, Child Protect, Magic Moments and many more. We have such a large voice in the community and feel as though we should use it to help support area agencies.”
Edwards’ favorite event is the annual Harvest Jam, featuring live music, farmers market vendors, kids activities and a craft beer tasting provided by Pies + Pints. The event is done in partnership with Child Protect. “It’s something about the crisp fall air, the collaboration with Child Protect and bringing so many small Alabama farmers and makers together in one event that puts it at the top of my list.”
EastChase events have historically paid off for its restaurants, with event attendees translating to more diners, but retailers were not seeing the same boost. “In 2020, we realized a need for additional events to help drive traffic to our retailers, so I created the Summer/Fall/Spring Edit events,” Edwards said.
“These events are specifically designed to get attendees to visit our shops. We offer shopping passes for select retailers for this event, along with small business pop-ups, live music and giveaways. We have seen a dramatic difference in retailers’ event support since 2020 also. They have been able to see the difference these events have on their sales.”
Keep up on social media by following @theshoppesateastchase!
Jennifer Kornegay works with the rest of the CentrAL INC! team to plan and create the articles and content for each issue. She is also a freelance writer and editor with work published in national and regional publications.