Downtown Merchants to Give Away 2,000 Gifts During 'Magic of Birmingham'
The annual event has changed this year to provide more foot traffic for merchants.
This Saturday, the place to be will be downtown at the Magic of Birmingham, with event organizers shaking things up this year to create an even more exciting experience for shoppers and storeowners.
The event, which will take place from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. this Saturday and Dec. 18, is celebrating its fourth year this holiday season with a Kids Holiday Parade, carriage rides through town, carolers and free gifts for lucky shoppers. Throughout the day, "helpers" will be sneaking up on shoppers and surprising them with vouchers for free gifts at participating stores in town.
More than 2,000 gifts, worth more than $20,000, will be given out during the two days, provided by 37 area merchants. This year's top items include two roundtrip airline tickets from Departure Travel Management on Saturday, and a piece of jewelry from Astrein's Creative Jewelry on Dec. 18.
"The idea behind the event is to surprise shoppers that are in town and give them a little bit of a magical experience," said John Heiney, Executive Director of the Principal Shopping District (PSD).
In former years, "helpers" passed out free gifts right on the street. Because shoppers will now have to go into their store, many merchants are pleased with the change.
"The message came through this year that the merchants love the event but wanted the chance to interact with the shopper," Heiney noted.
For stores like Schakolad Chocolate Factory, which will be giving out holiday-themed chocolate favors, the change will make all the difference in the world. Douglas Cale, Schakolad's owner, noted that if he didn't know the date of the event in the past, he wouldn't have even known it was going on, given how little foot traffic it brought through the doors.
Owner of Backcountry North, Tracy Mayer, noted that making consumers go to the stores in order to pick up their gifts makes the most sense as it ensures the right gift goes to the right person. Backcountry North will be giving away 75 gifts total including Smartwool socks and hats and aluminum water bottles. Mayer said it makes the most sense to give a child the aluminum water bottle and adult the socks and hats.
"We then can really give them something that we think is of value to that specific customer instead of people on the street handing a pair of women's socks to a man, or something like that," Mayer said.
According to Richard Astrein, owner of Astrein's Creative Jewelers and chair of the PSD Special Events Committee, moving the event from Thursday to Saturday also makes sense because most stores are open on Saturday, but not Thursday nights.
"I'm a little worried about the amount of time that it will take up because Saturdays are extremely busy," Mayer said. "But we're trying to be prepared and as long as everybody's patient it should be great."
Aside from the changes, Magic of Birmingham will also feature WCSX 94.7, who will be broadcasting live near the Santa House in Shain Park. Zuma Coffee House will be passing out free cups of hot cocoa during the event.