Hillsborough businesses adapt to a lean summer season

Hillsborough Street
Hillsborough Street

For businesses on Hillsborough Street, there are two seasons: when NC State is in session and when it isn’t.

Approximately one-third of NC State students stay in town during the summer, a drop of over 20,000 target market customers that  impacts local establishments.

The Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation (HSCSC) was created, in part, to help businesses thrive in this environment. HSCSC Executive Director Jeff Murrison says that “a vibrant and stable Hillsborough Street is good for Raleigh and good for NC State.”

HSCSC, also operating under the name Live it Up Hillsborough Street, has created a partnership between Hillsborough Street businesses and University officials, sharing information about enrollment numbers, schedules and even holding workshops on what to expect from NC State in upcoming years.

They advise businesses not to forget about the students who remain in town. Internships, jobs and summer courses keep a growing number of students on and near campus. Murrison asks local establishments to be “open-minded and nimble.” Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets must be part of any business model that caters to students.

Part of that education also means helping businesses understand they have to prepare for the slow times by adjusting their models. This includes potential shifts in staffing and keeping an eye out for new markets.

Both The Alley and Bruegger’s Bagels allow for organic employment shifts. They normally do not hire additional help in the summer to replace any student employees they may lose, balancing an equation of fewer employees for the slower season.

Catering to families is another popular marketing strategy during summer months. Insomnia Cookies runs a summer reading program. For every six books a child reads, he or she receives a free cookie. The Alley is part of a nationwide ‘Kids Bowl Free’ program that offers a way to beat the heat on days too steamy or stormy for the pool.

Mitch Hazouri of Mitch’s Tavern sees the summer as a great time for locals to rediscover Hillsborough Street while the crowds are smaller and parking is ample.

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