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Quirky Events With Booze Gin Up Excitement For Brick-And-Mortar Retail Across The Country

A Beaucycled workshop, where participants assemble potted succulents, at the Philadelphia Horticultural Society's Pop-Up Garden bar on South Street in Philadelphia

Brick-and-mortar retail on the whole may not be dead or dying, but many boutique stores are feeling pressure to change and be noticed to stay afloat.

Local vintage and secondhand stores in Kenosha, Wisconsin, banded together for a three-hour "shopping crawl," where a group of 28 people hit multiple stores to find specialized deals as well as food and drinks. A similar event in Iowa City, Iowa, broadened the scope of stores involved, and added event-themed cocktails as part of the equation, the Wall Street Journal reports.

For similar stores to collaborate rather than compete may come as a surprise, but when such specialty retailers and archetypal small businesses see Amazon and its ilk as a common enemy, staying afloat becomes a team effort.

“More and more needlepoint shops are closing: The expenses are too high; people don’t have time to do needlepoint. We wanted to support shops and needlepoint classes,” Elizabeth Bozievich, the organizer of a multi-day trip across the Pacific Northwest to 10 different needlepoint shops, told the WSJ.

The concept of crawls comes from the well-known pub crawl, wherein a community of bar owners open their doors to a specific group of revelers who often pay a flat fee for one drink at each venue. As many retailers look to develop more of an experiential aspect to their shops, the concept of an event — and the inclusion of alcohol — has become more widespread.

As retailers look to integrate more programming into their spaces, even bars and restaurants are thinking outside the box. Beaucycled, a company that runs DIY workshops for participants to assemble potted succulents, operates out of bars in Philadelphia and New Jersey such as Frankford Hall in Fishtown. For a fee, guests get the supplies for their own plant creations, and they buy drinks from the hosting establishment.

This trend of collaboration goes beyond the popular street festivals in cities across the country, with retailers setting up temporary booths, in that it crucially draws customers inside the store so they can better connect their experiences with the brick-and-mortar locations.

“You’ve got to create excitement and engagement with consumers to keep them coming back,” CoStar Research Director Susan Mulvee told the WSJ.