Creating More Economic Spin Off from the Collingwood Elvis Festival

April 26th, 2017

April 19, 2017
The Town of Collingwood recently sponsored a program to explore how Downtown Collingwood retailers can maximize the benefits they get from the thousands of visitors who come to the Elvis Festival each year. The program they supported was designed and administered by Maureen Atkinson, Senior Partner at J.C. Williams Group. It included interviews with retailers, the BIA, and the Chamber of Commerce as well as a presentation on ideas for making the festival the best it can be.
The feedback from the interviews showed that many retailers and restaurants were supportive of the festival and got lots of benefit to their businesses; sometimes doubling what they would do on a normal summer weekend. Others found that the festival had a negative impact on their business with decreases of 50–70% below normal; while some simply closed their business during that time.

Key reasons mentioned as to why some retailers support the festival are that:
• It is a fun event with people enjoying themselves,
• Lots of people visit who would not normally come,
• It “Puts Collingwood on the map,” and
• “Can’t buy that publicity.”

Businesses that were negative about the festival noted:
• Elvis lovers don’t spend money, don’t care about quality, don’t tip at restaurants,
• Take up all the parking,
• Drive locals out of town,
• “Not our image,” and
• Aging attendees.

Some recommendations for businesses to more fully benefit from the Elvis Festival that were discussed at the presentation on March 28 include the following:
• Get into the spirit of the festival by finding ways to participate in the promotional opportunities or creating fun displays. This year the vendors will be set up down the middle of the street allowing retailers and restaurants to showcase their wares on the sidewalk.
• Businesses need to rethink how they normally do business to take advantage of the crowd. This can include getting products that appeal to these Elvis fans. Anything fun or “Las Vegas” look is appealing. It was noted that you can get non-licensed products made if it is an artist interpretation of Elvis and if you produce less than 50 of those products. For restaurants and food service, it can mean creating menus and food items that are less expensive and easier to produce/serve quickly, e.g., pub menu, small servings to take away.
• To help restaurant staff benefit from the crowds of customers who do not tip, it was suggested that full-service restaurants should apply a “service charge” which covers all gratuities and entertainment from the Elvis Tribute Artists.
• It was recognized that for some businesses, the best option is to close for that day rather than bring in staff for a weekend that was unlikely to produce sales.
• For businesses that sell products that are unlikely to be bought that day, use this as an opportunity to introduce their business to a whole new clientele by making sure that they promote their website and social media links through the festival and to the people on the streets. This can also mean getting people signed up for a newsletter.
Overall, some great ideas were discussed.
The planning for this year’s Collingwood Elvis Festival is very well developed, so if you have any questions or want to know how your business can become involved and benefit from the crowds, call Rosemarie O’Brian at 705-444-2500 Ext. 3414 or via email at

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