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These shops on Hanover Square are emblematic of the changing retail landscape in Lower Manhattan, where small businesses are besieged by a broad range of converging market forces, from rising rents to cut-throat competition from e-commerce giants.

These shops on Hanover Square are emblematic of the changing retail landscape in Lower Manhattan, where small businesses are besieged by a broad range of converging market forces, from rising rents to cut-throat competition from e-commerce giants.

The Downtown Alliance is offering two “Downtown Digital Innovation Grants” that will award a pair of local storefront business in Lower Manhattan up to $10,000 in services to improve their online presence and digital tool kit. This grant is intended to give businesses the capacity to invest in everything from digital advertising and social media strategy to outfitting in-store employees with mobile tools and smarter checkout capabilities.

Alliance president Jessica Lappin

This is the second year that the Alliance has offered the award, but for 2019, it is being expanded to help a pair of recipients. “Local businesses are the backbone of New York City and we’re doubling down on this grant to help them succeed in Lower Manhattan,” explains Jessica Lappin, president of the Alliance. “We saw what an incredible impact the grant had on Martin Busch Jewelers,” the winning applicant in 2018, “and we’re hoping to replicate that success.”

The Digital Innovation Grant program is driven in part by insights like those contained in the “State of Retail Report,” by TimeTrade, a software company that equips businesses to provide personalized service to larger numbers of customers. The 2017 report found that contemporary retail consumers, “want a hybrid shopping experience that combines the convenience of online shopping with the customer service focus of in-store shopping.” It also documented that, while 75 percent of consumers prefer to make their purchases in a physical store, 90 percent are researching online first. Similarly, once in the store, 57 percent of shoppers reported feeling more confident about the purchases they make when their store associates were using mobile devices to assist them.

Last year’s winner, Martin Busch Jewelers, is a women-owned and operated family business, which used its $10,000 grant to take professional photos of their inventory and showcase it on both their website and Instagram. As a result, they’ve experienced almost a 50 percent increase in website traffic in recent months. And with the help of a consultant, they boosted their social media followers, set up a Facebook Shop, and are now able to sell products via Instagram. Now, the mother-daughter management team plans to build on their digital success by continuing to expand their digital presence and better connect with their customers.

The borders of the Business Improvement District operated by the Downtown Alliance, within which storefront firms are eligible to apply for the Downtown Digital Innovation Grant, worth up to $10,000

Applications are now open for all storefront businesses within the Business Improvement District that the Alliance operates. (See map for boundaries.) The deadline to apply is March 20, 2019 at 11:59 pm. For more information, or to apply online, please browse: www.downtownny.com

For the 2019 winner (who will be selected by sharing a compelling vision for how the grant will help attract more customers and increase profits), the Alliance will help select (and pay for) the right experts and consultants to fulfill a critical digital need, ranging from search engine optimization to a website redesign.

The mission of the Downtown Alliance is to enhance Lower Manhattan for businesses, residents, and visitors. (Along with other functions, the Alliance also provides local security and trash pickup, as well as operating the business improvement district that covers the area roughly bounded by City Hall and the Battery, between the East and West Street.)



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