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By CARL SMITH
The second year of Bulldog Brunch and Browse begins Sunday, and city retailers say they are gearing up to introduce an influx of consumers to the best of Starkville shopping.
Bulldog Brunch and Browseâ€™s shop-local aim brings football fans and out-of-town visitors to downtown Starkville each Sunday following a home football game from noon to 3 p.m. Local retailers who normally do not open their stores on Sunday say they take advantage of the extra downtown foot traffic and use the event not only to sell goods, but also to entice customers to return in the future.
Jennifer Gregory, Greater Starkville Development Partnership vice president for tourism and chief operating officer, said last yearâ€™s event generated approximately $70,000 in new sales during home football weekends with minimum advertising. This year, she says she is hopeful the effort generates even more sales and excitement about downtownâ€™s restaurants and stores along with the peeked interest in MSU football.
â€ś(Bulldog Brunch and Browse) was an idea that came out the charrette workshop. The whole strategy behind it is to try and capitalize on 60,000-plus fans here on football games,â€ť Gregory said. â€śMany stay in hotels that have a two-night minimum, and a majority are checking out on Sunday and staying for lunch or brunch. (Before Bulldog Brunch and Browse began), shoppers were literally walking past the closed doors of our great retailers and boutiques.â€ť
Earnings do not solely reflect Bulldog Brunch and Browseâ€™s success, Gregory said. Increasing exposure to Starkvilleâ€™s restaurants and stores also markets the downtown area, she said, and introduces visitors to the cityâ€™s culture and revitalized atmosphere. This exposure, she said, brings visitors back for return visits.
â€śWeâ€™re really trying to build a culture here in Starkville that encourages fans to come early, stay late and find out what our city really has to offer. Weâ€™re a lively town with great shopping, awesome restaurants and attractions for every crowd,â€ť she said. â€śThereâ€™s really something here for everyone.â€ť
Participants in this yearâ€™s Bulldog Brunch and Browse include: Aspen Bay, Bath Bayou, Book Mart & Cafe, Frock Fashions, Libby Story, Mary Virginiaâ€™s, Occasions, Oooh La La, R. Tabb & Co. and Reeds (Main Street); Sprout and Thyme (Lampkin Street); Harmonie Boutique (Lafayette Street); LA Green and Peak Nutrition (Russell Street); and Merle Norman/Luna Bella (Washington Street).
Book Mart & Cafe Manager Carolyn Abadie said her store experienced a strong turnout from shoppers last year and increased revenues. The store, she said, previously did not open on Sundays before Bulldog Brunch and Browse.
â€ś(Opening on Sundays) definitely increases our business, especially when football fans are in Starkville. Bulldog Brunch and Browse really gives visitors a chance to come to our store and see what weâ€™re all about,â€ť she said. â€śWe hope we see a lot of repeat business from our visitors when they return to Starkville.â€ť
Frock Fashions Assistant Manager Hilary Hancock said the boutiqueâ€™s employees have an opportunity to interact one-on-one with visitors during the program, and that interaction could entice future business.
â€śItâ€™s always great to see new faces at our store,â€ť she said. â€śJust getting them in, showing them what we have and telling them about how new things are always coming in â€¦ that can bring them back just by itself. Itâ€™s wonderful to be involved in bringing new business in and being able to interact with visitors.â€ť