Twitter was filled with posts and pictures of Haligonians enjoying a day in downtown Halifax on Dec. 16. But it wasn’t a normal day – it was a Big Day.
Big Day Downtown is the Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s marketing initiative to get more people involved in life in the city’s centre. On the third Wednesday of most months, people are invited to explore different businesses on their lunch breaks or after work.
Dec. 16 was the last Big Day for the winter.
The object of the initiative, the commission’s communications and marketing director Brenden Sommerhalder says, is to showcase the downtown area.
“It’s really all about getting people to break their habit of coming and going, and actually sticking around to experience something new.”
It also helps smaller businesses break through “noise” in marketing with less effort.
“It just requires them to have an idea and execute it, and then plug into the larger promotional campaign” of Big Day, he said.
Some of the businesses that regularly participate in Big Day Downtown include retail stores like Biscuit General Store, Pearl and Daisy, Attica and Inkwell; bars like Durty Nelly’s, the Lower Deck and HFX Sports Bar; galleries like Argyle Fine Art; restaurants like Indochine, the Boardroom Café and the Old Apothecary. Not all partake every time: the business commission puts a list of participating businesses on their website, as well as the sales or events they are offering.
Many offer sales on Big Day,while others have specialty menu items, live music or special exhibits – such as the replica Back to the Future DeLorean that Argyle Fine Art parked outside its storefront in October.
Big Day coincided with Back to the Future day, Oct. 21, 2015 – the day the fictional Marty McFly travelled to in the movie Back to the Future II.
Adriana Afford, the owner of Argyle Fine Art, says it was perfect timing.
“We even had parents dragging their kids out of school early just so they could get down here and see a car,” she said. “And we had kids that were dressed up to look just like the people – Michael J. Fox and his girlfriend in the movies.”
For Afford, Big Day is a chance to make people feel welcome in businesses they wouldn’t normally visit.
“People are still afraid to go into certain businesses,” she said.
“Then you go inside and you find those businesses have more to offer than what you immediately think.”
Several new people who checked out Argyle Fine Art because of Big Day have become regular customers, Afford said.
As an incentive to have people participate in the initiative, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission offers two draws for $200 gift cards. Anyone who tweets or posts a photo of their time downtown, using the hashtag #BigDayDowntown, is entered in the draw.
The next Big Day is Apr. 20.