For decades, Lafayette’s Holy Trinity of assets — our unique food, music and culture — has been the backbone of a successful tourism marketing campaign for the community. Lafayette has earned accolades from publications, websites and other rating agencies for being The Tastiest Town, a Top 10 Foodie City, a Top 10 Travel Destination in the South, for producing The Best World Music Festival and more. As proof that the whole can sometimes be greater than the sum of its parts, this trinity also makes business recruitment easier for a wide range of professionals, from petroleum engineers and physicians to college professors, techies and other members of the creative class.
But for the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, the agency directly responsible for helping put butts in seats at local restaurants and bodies in the beds of Lafayette hotels and motels, there is another yet-to-be exploited opportunity: the city’s growing reputation as a shopping mecca. With hundreds of upscale spas, fashion and gift boutiques, vintage consignment shops, antique and art galleries and major department stores, Lafayette is increasingly a destination for day tripping shopaholics. LCVC Executive Director Ben Berthelot is hoping to extend those stays by promoting Lafayette’s emerging retail footprint regionally, supporting local merchandising events and coordinating weekend hotel/motel packages to maximize this market segment, not only for his members but the community as a whole.
Using the successful Eat Lafayette campaign as a model, Shop Lafayette was launched last month to add a fourth dimension to Lafayette’s portfolio for travelers. Unlike the mid-summer dining promotion that focuses on locally owned eateries, the new campaign will promote the gamut of retail options in the parish: “The message is that Lafayette has it all,” Berthelot says. “The big department stores and franchises are important to shoppers, but the small mom-and-pop stores get equal presence on the website. That’s part of what I like about it.”
The website ShopLafayetteLa.com has been under construction for more than a year and is now live with almost 1,000 listings of everything a visitor needs to stop, shop, stay and eat. Six shopping districts are currently defined: Upper Lafayette, Downtown, The Saint Streets, Midtown, The Oil Center and Southside. The maps include icons for restaurants, bars, retail and more. Still a work in progress, the site adds new listings daily, and individual businesses can log on to be included on the list or to give more detailed information about their stores.
A strategic promotional campaign is being rolled out now, starting with online, social media and regional print buys. The theme is “Two Step into a Shopping Paradise,” which positions Lafayette as a unique blend of shopping, food and culture. “Lafayette Travel already has 12-time commitments in many magazines,” says Julie Calzone, whose advertising agency coordinates LCVC’s marketing. “We’re just tweaking the ads during the holiday shopping season. Instead of a food and culture message, we’re saying, ‘Shop Lafayette.’” A few targeted billboards are planned for specific locations on I-10 between The Atchafalaya Basin and Orange, Texas, and in smaller markets within driving distance of Lafayette.
Early adopters who have signed on as campaign sponsors include Spa Mizan, Dunn’s Furniture & Interiors, Upper Lafayette, Shop River Ranch and LAGCOE. Sponsor packages with commensurate benefits are priced from $1,000 to $10,000, and others are encouraged to join. Hotels are slowly recognizing the opportunity to create weekend lodging packages, which Lafayette Travel can promote in the campaign.
Acadiana Mall plans a coupon book to place in local hotels, and Berthelot is hoping that other strip centers and retail groups will create merchandising events and promotions for the Shop Lafayette mix. But it is difficult to coordinate a diverse range of retailers into a cohesive group. That is one reason why the retail committee of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce imploded decades ago.
The Shop Lafayette campaign offers a great opportunity for retailers to coordinate a few parish-wide promotions each year. The chamber may be the perfect partner to help maximize that opportunity. With new leadership at both organizations, such a partnership may also be a test case for other cooperative endeavors that could benefit us all.