Focus 2019: What Makes Kearney Unique?

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NEW LOCATION: 112 Front Street, Gibbon Phone: 308-468-5205 • Toll Free: 1-866-TRANNYS • 1221 Ave. A • Kearney Call 234-1220 or 1-800-456-6947 WE SPECIALIZE IN Suspension Work & Alignment • Strut Suspensions • Shocks • Brakes • Alignment on Cars • Pickup • Boat & Stock Trailers • RV’s of any Kind •Lift & Level Kits • Over-The-Road Trucks For all your vehicle maintenance Kearney Hub • Saturday, February 9, 2019 • Page 2 WHATMAKES KEARNEY UNIQUE? FO U S budget and goes toward education- al causes like scholarships. This past year, 8,000 cards were printed at CopyCat in Kearney. Parrish said CopyCat discounts the service as payment for their ad. Of the 8,000 cards printed this year, about 7,500 were sold, gener- ating about $36,000 for school activities. While beneficial to the students and school organizations, business owners also find the advertising beneficial. Cindy Houlden, owner of The Lodge Restaurant in Kearney, says they run 20-30 K Card transactions every day at her establishment. “We plan to advertise as long as it is offered,” she said. The business started advertis- ing three years ago. Its deal is a 5 percent off coupon. Parrish said the foundation always is looking for new busi- nesses to advertise, and the cards usually are different from year to year. Even though some advertisers drop out when businesses close or management changes, the foundation usually is able to find 25 businesses to advertise. When school gets out for the summer and there’s a natural lull for an educa- tional organization, the foundation is connecting with advertisers to fill the spaces on the cards so that they’re ready to be sold in late September. This past year, Culver’s and HyVee Market Grille created deals for the K Card. Culver’s offers a buy one, get one free mini concrete mixer, and Market Grille offers a half-priced appetizer with any entree purchase. Other advertisers, like Runza, are longtime supporters of the K Card. Initially, business owner Tim Higgins put a Runza deal on the card in 1998 as a way to support the schools and be a part of the Kearney community, but it’s been a “win-win over the last 20 years. “It’s our best recurring coupon,” Higgins said. “It seems like every- body’s got one.” With a simple $1 off a combo meal coupon on the K Card, Hig- gins said the coupon gets the best return on investment. Parrish noted the return for those purchasing K Cards is great, too. “If you know you can go to a business and order your meal and get a free drink just because you have this,” she held up a K Card. “If you’re a regular patron of any business and say you go there a dozen times and save $1 off, that’s more than paid for your investment in a $5 K Card.” Many businesses offer some sort of dollar off deal on the card, including Quiznos, Amigos, Spa- ghetti Shop, Taco John’s, Valenti- no’s and Buggy Bath Car Wash. Though the card has changed during the years, both in the adver- tisers, color of the card and even the name, which changed from the “Cat Card” to the “K Card” in 2016, it’s sure to stay around. “I think they’re working very well,” Parrish said. “But I think we definitely need to come up with something special for the 25th anniversary.” @TiffanyStoiber CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 K CARD: Sold in September HOW TO GET A K CARD? High school students in Kearney start selling K Cards in September. If you don’t know a high school student, you can buy a card at the Kearney Public Schools’ District Office, 320 W. 24th St. inventory before they leave home. “So then I’m not making trips and not finding things.” The reservation option and an even newer feature, Ship to Store, are two ways The Buckle has responded to customers’ chang- ing shopping habits. With internet sales increasing every year, retailers are finding ways to keep their storefronts relevant by giving customers more than they get online. According to a recent Reuters article, Americans spent $126 billion online in the 2018 holiday season, a 16.5 percent increase compared to 2017. Online sales currently account for just under 10 percent of total U.S. retail sales and are rising, with an especially marked increase in mobile transactions. Citing an Adobe Analytics study, the Reuters article said 51 percent of retail website traffic was on mobile plat- forms, accounting for one-third of all online spending during November and December of last year. Scott Ehmke, property manager for Hilltop Mall, said The Buckle’s innovations are an example of how the mall and its tenants are adapting to keep business brisk. “As a whole, we are trending up in sales, so we are doing OK. We continue to grow, and I foresee us to continue to grow as well,” Ehmke said. Continued growth for American retailers means changing the way they do business, adapting to shoppers who put an increasing premium on convenience and getting the most from their limited free time. According to Hilltop Mall’s Marketing Director Lindsie Breazeale and Ehmke, the mall is looking for ways to offer new and unique shopping experiences for customers. A recent change was the addition of two automated businesses. One is a Reis & Irvy’s frozen yogurt machine, installed in October, which lets customers use a touch screen to choose the size, flavor and toppings for their desserts. “That’s a great amenity,” Ehmke said. “It’s simple, it’s a neat experience, it’s a help-yourself type of thing.” The other is a pair of climate-controlled, secure doghouses that customers access and pay for using a mobile app called DogSpot. CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 CHANGE: Merchants had to adapt to online shopping play areas or Lumo Play features. Ehmke said Lumo Play makes display software that can create interactive digital games on floors, walls or display windows. “You’re seeing them in a lot of the other malls, your Class A, your Class B malls, a lot of that’s already going on,” Ehmke said. “They’re adding that stuff, they’re keeping that experience fresh for customers. That’s something that as a Class C mall we’re pursuing, too.” While Ehmke said no specific new features are planned now for Kearney’s mall, their management team is looking at what other malls have done with an eye to the future. “We have been looking at stuff like that, it’s just a mat- ter of implementing some of those over time,” he said. What shoppers will see immediately, Breazeale said, is that the mall’s décor will change with the seasons to create immersive experi- ences, just as she did during the holidays. The Spring Takeover, for example, will go up in April and include new landscaping out front. For the Christmas shop- ping season, Breazeale evoked the sights of Christ- mas with new décor, created a “snowing area” in center court with snowflakes made by local fourth-graders, and put up “I can’t even tell you how many Christmas trees.” For the feel of Christ- mas, Breazeale put out four mailboxes for Santa and one special snowman that blew chilled bubbles, so it would “snow” on Saturdays. Scented trees at the entrances provided the smells, live performances and recorded music added Christmas sounds. And for the tastes of Christmas, she relied on tenants such as SmallCakes Cupcakery and Joe’s Nut Co. “We got tons and tons of feedback about how great the mall looked and how people wanted to just come up here and shop and just walk around, because it felt like Christmas here,” Breazeale said, adding she will take the same approach each season. “We intend to do that the rest of the year, make it feel like something differ- ent than just shopping at a mall. We want to invoke other emotions.” CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 EXPERIENCE Those have been in place since August. “For the people who come up to the mall during the summertime, they like to bring their pet with them, they can utilize that, versus leaving them in a hot car,” Ehmke said. For other longtime mall tenants, presenting shoppers something new has meant changing their space. Rid- dle’s Jewelers, which has been at Hilltop since 1998, completed a remodel in October that manager Joann Dummer said was aimed at giving customers a better experience. Along with creating more open space and remov- ing older pop-out display windows, the store added a customer lounge in what used to be a storage room. “(Customers) love it. They think it’s just beau- tiful,” Dummer said of the room, which has comfort- able chairs, a table and a microscope. She explained the room offers a private space where shoppers can learn about diamonds, inspect gems or talk about financing options. Emphasizing the personal touch they can give shop- pers is something many mall tenants do, Breazeale said, as that’s the advantage they can offer custom- ers compared to online retailers. She said Hilltop’s newest tenant, Bling, is an example of that. “In Bling, if you go in and ask them, they will help you personally shop for your event or your occasion,” Breazeale said, but added that major chain stores offer personalized service, too. “So anytime I go into Maurices, I ask for Cas- sandra and she will help me complete an entire outfit,” she said, adding that store employees will make suggestions, let her know what looks good or just let her know what the latest trends are. “I don’t know the best how to pair colors, or I didn’t when I started here, and so that was great.” Sarah Purinton, who man- ages Bling, said the personal approach by her company is paying off. Though the shop just opened Oct. 9, she already has regular custom- ers who come to her for advice. “As a company, we really focus on the customer experience,” she said, which means making customers feel as if they have a friend to shop with. All merchants, though, have had to adapt to the reality of online shopping. Breazeale said she’s noticed mall tenants making sure their stores comple- ment their online presence, taking returns from online purchases or offering free shipping to the store. Oth- ers, including The Buckle, have used technology to bring mobile shoppers into their stores. Lori Cody, The Buckle’s director of marketing, said the company’s mobile app with a reservation function has been available since 2016, and has evolved since. Customers have been able to buy online and have their purchases shipped to the store since September 2017. Last July, The Buckle added the in-store reservation function to its website. When the app opens, it features The Buckle’s new- est items, which customers can choose to be notified about regularly, just as Kolbo did. Once on the app, custom- ers may search the entire Buckle site. “It just opens up the inventory,” Cody said. “You can pre-shop it before you come in.” Cody said she uses the app to shop for her daugh- ters in Omaha and Denver. She can buy or reserve clothes that they can pick up at their local stores. “I’m probably one of the biggest users of the app in Kearney,” she said. But Cody is far from the only user. “Every day people are reserving things,” Kolbo said, adding that it not only attracts people for its convenience, it gives them exclusivity. “Customers really fall in love with the concept because they’re getting (clothes) earlier,” he said, “they’re the first to get something in their size, the first to try it on.” Erika Pritchard, Kearney Hub THE BUCKLE assis- tant manager Kristine Silvers checks her iPad to see which jeans a customer has reserved through The Buckle’s mobile app. The jeans will go to a reservation area at the Hilltop Mall store, where the customer will try them on later. Reservation and “ship to store” functions are two newer ways the company is using its online presence.