Drumming up business for indie boutiques calls for never-ending creativity, and the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce's latest plan involves yarn, pom-poms, and some questionably crocheted Santas.
On December 5 and 6, Wicker Park and Bucktown businesses will set up in-store Ugly Sweater Selfie Stations where customers can pose in hideous sweaters, snap selfies, upload to Instagram, hash- and geo-tag the photos, and be entered to win various goodies. Participating shops include Timbuk2 (1623 N. Damen Ave., timbuk2.com), Vintage Charm (1735 N. Damen Ave., shopvintagecharm.com), and The Red Balloon Co. (1940 N. Damen Ave., theredballoon.com), and prizes will range from Wicker Park stay-cations to bike-themed hauls. Snapshots will be judged by the ultimate Internet currency: Instagram likes.
The contest is also a tongue-in-cheek nod to the style of Wicker Park residents. “Self-indulgent 'hipsters' in ironic clothing are what people seem to expect to find in Wicker Park Bucktown year round," says Molly Huber, Wicker Park Bucktown Special Events Coordinator. "So why not embrace that stereotype of the vain hipster and exploit it to promote businesses?”
So far, roughly 20 businesses have agreed to host a Selfie Station in their windows, but Huber expects many more will sign on, since the process is so easy: businesses simply tell the Chamber they're willing to participate and get a Selfie Station poster (plus free advertising) in return.
And while the outfits may be shallow, the benefits to small businesses could be substantial. “Participation is easy—most everyone has Instagram, and if the proliferation of ugly sweater parties in recent years are any indication, there's a lot of hideous holiday clothing lurking in closets all over Chicago,” says Huber. “And because it's so fun and simple and prizes are involved, we hope we'll attract a great number of people to our local businesses. Even if they don't buy something when they stop in to take a selfie, they'll have a chance to familiarize themselves with businesses they might not have gone into otherwise, and may come back for future shopping excursions.”
In short, everybody wins. Businesses rack up free exposure, the Chamber of Commerce gets credit for their of-the-moment marketing tactics, hipsters become somehow even more ironically hyper-hipster, and customers get what they've always wanted: a chance to turn their Internet popularity into prizes and break those crocheted Santa sweaters out of the closet.