We tried a new promotion on Monroe Street this holiday season, and hope that we can build on its success next year. You might get some ideas from our Elf Door Scavenger Hunt and do your own version – it turned out to be a fun way to lead kids and families to discover all the businesses in our area.

Inspired by the Elf Door Discovery activity in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, we ordered 24 unfinished wooden doors from England from The Artful Fairy Shop. We asked our merchants as well as local artists to volunteer to paint one, and were thrilled with the results – especially given our tight timeline.  The only problem was that some of them were not ready to withstand being outside in the brutal Wisconsin weather that hit is in December this year.

The elf doors were a bright spot in what turned out to be a difficult holiday season. We placed them on the storefronts or in the entryways of our shops and restaurants, attaching them with Duck Max Strength Nano-Grab Double-Sided Gel Tape. A few businesses had incorporated their logo into the design, and we put those on their store – but otherwise we mixed it up. 

The public was invited to participate in two different ways. Kids 12 and under could pick up a scavenger hunt from at the local library, ice cream shop or art school. They needed to find five of the doors (although most found more) in order to be entered in a prize drawing. Each child turning in a completed form got a candy cane or ice cream treat as a reward.

A group of students in the University of Wisconsin Advertising Club helped us work out a way for teens and adults to join in the fun. They set up a Google Doc with the names of the businesses (randomized) and a multiple choice list of doors for each one.  The winner of the online version won a $100 Visa gift card to spend anywhere on the street. We had hoped for a robust turnout of college students, but the fact that it was final exam time – and cold – didn’t work in our favor. Next year we’ll start earlier, and have the event run longer.

During our holiday open house some years back we had done a “Where’s Wingra” scavenger hunt for kids in which stuffed frogs (named after a local lake) were hidden in plain sight inside participating businesses.  Whether you hide your objects inside the shops or outside, it’s important to emphasize that participants must leave them in place.  Using a QR code on the object can be helpful in devising a way to report a successful find without touching it.

Any item you like can be used for this low cost promotion, which may or may not lead directly to sales. But if searching for frogs or elf doors creates good will in your community, and makes more people familiar with what your area has to offer, why not give a scavenger hunt a try?

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder