RACINE, Wis. — From Santa arriving by ferry in Bayfield to a polka-centric holiday market in Wauwatosa, cities large and small around Wisconsin are getting increasingly creative when it comes to bringing holiday shoppers to their downtown areas. 

What You Need To Know

  • As small businesses face more competition, shop local events are growing

  • Events are becoming more creative

  • The Downtown association said it is worth the expense and effort to attract new shoppers

Between November and December, downtown Racine has hosted a Beer and Bacon event, Kringle Walk, First Friday’s shopping night and a holiday parade. While each event is designed to bring fun opportunities to the community, it is also designed to drive holiday shopping. 

In an era where small merchants face increased competition from online retailers and big box stores, Kelly Kruse with the Downtown Racine Development Corporation, said using every opportunity to get people to shop local is key. The more creative the event, the more people it typically attracts.

“People now need experiential shopping. You need to have an experience along with your shopping. People just don’t shop the way they used to,” said Kruse. 

Dimple Navratil owns Dimple’s Imports in downtown Racine. Navratil said she sees a big boost in business each time an event is held. She said that it often is a time when new shoppers visit the store for the first time. 

“It is an experience shopping, so it makes it more fun. Along with shopping, we get a lot of families that have never been downtown before, so it is important we keep the events going,” said Navratil. 

Coming up with new downtown events takes time and financial resources to purchase supplies and market the events. However, Kruse said it is worth the investment for the businesses she represents and the city they call home.

“They have to, right? Otherwise we are not going to continue to do them,” said Kruse. “We always make sure they are fiscally advantageous to the merchants as well as us so that really comes down to the support of the merchants themselves, they are all members in our organization. We also have a lot of community sponsors.” 

Kruse said she often looks to other communities around Wisconsin and across the country to see what events may work well in Racine.