Shop Petal First had humble beginnings. Twenty years ago, the Petal Chamber of Commerce searched for ways to keep holiday shoppers in Petal and to compete with the large national retail chains in neighboring Hattiesburg. Black Friday, in particular, drew Petal residents to Hattiesburg in search of great deals and price reductions.
The idea of persuading shoppers to shop in Petal the weekend before Thanksgiving and Black Friday led to the Shop Petal First promotion. Businesses in Petal were encouraged to offer specials and enhance the holiday spirit by providing light refreshments and decorating for Christmas earlier. Additionally, each participating store offered a drawing for a door prize. The goal was to make Shop Petal First a city-wide shopping experience.
There have been changes and additions to Shop Petal First. One of the most popular changes to Shop Petal First is the addition of the Shop Petal First $500 Grand Prize cash reward. A city map is divided into four shopping areas with a list of participating merchants in each zone. To qualify for a chance to win the Grand Prize, shoppers have to visit at least one merchant or restaurant in each location and verify by collecting a color-coded sticker or QR code entry. After all entry forms are collected, one lucky shopper’s entry is drawn. Not only does this add to the fun atmosphere, but it also encourages shoppers to expand their visits across the entire city which benefits the merchants.
The primary marketing tool for SPF is the Shop Petal First Shopping Guide which is available in over 50 participating merchants in Petal. The guide includes ads for each merchant, a list of door prizes, holiday events, gift suggestions, and much more. The Shop Petal First website provides extensive information on the occasion, and there is a Shop Petal First Facebook page and website. www.shoppetalfirst.net
The Shop Petal First Gala and Silent Auction will kick off the 20th Anniversary of Shop Petal First on Thursday, November 17, at the Petal Civic Center at 6:30 pm. The Petal Arts Council is sponsoring the gala, featuring the work of various local artists and a taste of Petal from Sullivan & Sons. And this year, a new feature of SPF is the Shop Petal First Holiday Market at Petal Harvey Baptist Church. Arts and craft vendors without a brick-and-mortar store location will offer handmade gift items to our shoppers.
After 20 years, Shop Petal First has evolved into a city tradition. Families look forward to a weekend of visiting and supporting our local businesses while enjoying all they offer to our community. It is a satisfying alternative to anonymous online buying and an excellent way to keep the spirit of Christmas close to home.