By STEVEN NALLEY
Secret Santa events typically keep its participants guessing not only what they will receive, but also whom they will receive it from.
Starting this week and running through Christmas, 19 of Starkville’s local retailers won’t be looking for anonymity when they offer customers discounts through a new Secret Santa program developed by the Starkville Main Street Association.
If anything, SMSA Manager Jennifer Gregory said, the goal is to boost Starkville’s exposure to customers who might otherwise do their shopping out of town. The only secret, she said, will be the amount customers can save.
Gregory said SMSA administrates the program by distributing tags for retailers to place on items in their stores. One side is red, marked “Secret Santa,” but the other green side features a Quick Response code, a square, black and white, computer-generated pattern which can be scanned with a smart phone.
“It will take them to a website that will give them a coupon immediately; they don’t have to go through several fields,” Gregory said. “It can either be 15, 20 or 25 percent off that one item. The secret part of it is that you don’t know what the discount is until you checkout (or) until you scan the QR code with your barcode scanner. All the tags look exactly the same, so you’ll basically scan to get your secret discount for that item.”
Gregory said all participating retailers have clerks with smart phones who can scan the tags at checkout, so customers do not need smart phones to take advantage of the discounts.
When customers do scan the tags themselves, she said, they provide SMSA with data it can use to track how many people have bought Secret Santa items.
Gregory said she has also recommended participating retailers put tags on five items each week, changing those items from week to week.
“Some are going to do way more than that, (while) some will do less,” Gregory said. “We’re recommending the stores change the tags to put them on different pieces throughout the season so that people will be enticed to keep coming back into the stores to shop.”
Brecken Crabtree, owner of participating retailer Polka Tots, said she intends to change the items each week. She said she believes the strategy will bring in more shoppers more often.
“I think everybody’s looking for a deal,” Crabtree said. “It’s good exposure for everybody.”
Another participating retailer is Thyme, owned by Foley Holditch. She said she is likely to use Christmas and tabletop decorations as Thyme’s sale items for Secret Santa.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Holditch said. “We’re hoping it would get people in our store that may not have been in before and that we can get repeat customers as well.”
Gregory said retailers have been receptive to the Secret Santa program, just as with other SMSA events like UnWine Downtown. By making a small investment, such as a discount, retailers stand to gain more exposure and more customers in the long run, she said.
“These will be items that are not clearance items or last year’s inventory,” Gregory said. “They’re going to be putting the tags on their current merchandise in the store. It really is a nice benefit to the shoppers because normally there aren’t 25 percent discounts on new merchandise in a downtown boutique. We’re really grateful that the retailers have bought into the idea, and we think it’s hopefully going to be a good promotion for them to get people downtown to shop.”
The retailers participating include:
u Frock Fashions
u Libby Story
u R. Tabb and Co.
u The Sundial
u Polka Tots
u Harmonie Boutique
u Ooh La La
u Deep South Pout
u The Book Mart and Cafe
u Bath Bayou
u Mary Virginia’s
u The Purple Elephant
u George Sherman
u Oak and Steel Wines and Spirits
u Sullivan’s Office Supply
u Aspen Bay