October signals the doldrums for independent retailers. Collectively, nearly every business district experiences a major lull in foot traffic and often an absence of enthusiasm from customers. Veteran merchants are fairly used to this trend, but that doesn’t make it any easier as they try to rev up for holiday sales in November and December.
But a number of small retailers spend this time of year thinking outside the box. Citywide campaigns such as Little Boxes and the PDX Collective Sale are innovative ways to conjure up more business. These events are a good-faith effort to “raise the tide for ALL boats,” which results in more dynamic business districts. One such event that has been sparking a lot of interest is PDX Shopping Tours, created and curated by Consign Couture owner Tamara Young.
With quartlerly themed tours, Young’s event takes shoppers to different parts of Portland to visit boutiques so they can learn about their offerings, owners, and neighborhoods. They travel on a party bus and enjoy drinks, snacks, and lunch while discovering places they otherwise never would have: from Sellwood to St. Johns and everywhere in between. I asked Young to share a little bit about PDX Shopping Tours.
MERCURY: What inspired you to create Portland Shopping Tours?
TAMARA YOUNG: I love locally guided tours, and seeing the town through the eyes of someone who lives there. This tour was a natural step as a shop owner—it’s really important for people to support local businesses, so I wanted to find a way to bring people to other small shops around Portland.
What can customers expect on a typical tour?
The tour is a bonding experience for anyone looking to support local stores and have a unique experience. We visit several shops, each with a special discount for tour guests, and enjoy a beautiful lunch (with vegan and gluten-free options) at the Society Hotel. It’s really special. My favorite part is seeing the new friendships sparked by the experience.
How do you select the shops that are featured?
I’m constantly scouting all of Portland’s shops and try to pick ones that are doing something different. I love our independent spirit, and believe we live in the best city in the country for small businesses.
Do the tours have themes?
Yes, each time we do a different lineup of shops from across different neighborhoods. I think it’s really important for both visitors and Portlanders to experience different parts of the city. Each neighborhood has its own unique flavor. For example, I love people like Sarah Bibb of Folly boutique who constantly reinvents herself, keeping her brick-and-mortar open while making clothing in-house. Themes are a great way to creatively organize all these wonderful independent shops, and with each tour, I’m experimenting with the neighborhood, shops, and the format of the tour to best feature Portland retail.
Why do you think brick-and-mortar businesses are so important to Portland?
Portland has grown quite a bit in the last five years. With all the newcomers, you’d think that would equal more shopping at our independent boutiques. However, that hasn’t exactly been the case. People want ease, and we live in a time where you can order clothing online from your bed and it shows up next day. We’re tempted by fast-fashion retailers like Forever 21 and H&M, where you can buy new clothing for under $10. Portland became desirable because of all the quaint neighborhood shops, but in order to keep that spirit alive we need people to appreciate the local retailers out there adding to the culture of our city.
If you’re curious about PDX Shopping Tours, their next excursion will be held on October 28. You can find out more and sign up at portlandshoppingtours.com or follow @portlandshoppingtours on Instagram. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with your pals, or a fun activity for out of town guests!