Think Ladies Night, and you might conjure up a 1980s Three’s Companyesque bar scene: cute girls, with short skirts, who venture out for cheap drinks. The real aim was to entice men to spend their money, and to fatten the barkeep’s tips.
Fast-forward to 2008, and Ladies Night usually is much more refined and sophisticated. Modern women have more earning and buying power than ever. And they account for between 80 and 85 percent of all consumer purchases, depending on who’s counting.
And while some bars stick to the old Ladies Night formula, many women today would much rather hang out with the girls, and spend money at local boutiques, hotels or restaurants. Afterward, they’ll pick up their own tab, thank you very much.
And anyone who depends on shoppers to improve their own economies – from cities to small business owners to non-profit organizations – increasingly are tapping into the power of the purse. Greater Cincinnati businesses know this too, and Ladies Night Out-themed events are popping up all over the place.
Ladies Night organizers say these popular events appeal to women of all ages, single and married, and focus on long-term relationship building between business owner and customer. They also boost the highly sought after word-of-mouth business recommendation among girlfriends.
Heather Schmidt owns Nest, a home décor and gift shop in Oakley. She’s one of three Oakley businesses hosting a “Shop in the City” event Sept. 14, noon to 4 p.m., to celebrate National Women’s Friendship Day. The shopping event is a week ahead of the official friendship commemoration day, Sept. 21.
Schmidt’s been in business nine years, and most of her customers are women. It’s the first year she’s participated in a Women’s Friendship Day event. In addition to her women-focused enterprise, Schmidt is also dedicated to charities. Five percent of Nest sales that day will go to the Academy of Medicine Alliance of Cincinnati Health, Education and Service Fund, which supports organizations such as First Step Home, Glad House and Kids Helping Kids.
“It’s such a natural fit. I’d say 90 percent of my customers are women. My store is very much about being a woman. We have accessories for the home as well as gifts. We also throughout the year give to many women’s charities, so it all just kind of made sense,” Schmidt says.
Girlfriendology, a Web site devoted to women-owned businesses and social networking, sponsors Shop in the City. Debba Haupert founded the site. Other local businesses participating in Shop in the City are Casa DeLorenzo, a designer pillow store, and Redtree Gallery, a coffee shop and art gallery.
On September 21, Girlfriendology hosts another Women’s Friendship Day event, a wine tasting at Tino Vino in Hyde Park.
These businesses can depend on attracting lots of potential new and customers if the reception is similar to what downtown Bellevue businesses received during a Pajama Party Night in last June.
Businesses stayed opened late and pajama-clad shoppers lined Fairfield Avenue for shopping, food and fun.
“It was really hot and humid then, so we were surprised by how crowded it was. The sidewalks were full, and shops were full. There was just a real sense of excitement,” says Jody Robinson, Bellevue assistant city administrator and downtown coordinator.
Sponsored by Shop Bellevue, the event was one of the best attended of the year, Robinson said, attracting lots of women and couples. About half of the shoppers hit the town in their PJs.
Non-profits and community groups, too, are getting in the Ladies Night experience.
St. Rita School for the Deaf in Evendale just finished its first "Shop 'Til You Drop Happy Hour" in August to raise gifts for its scholarship benefit. Also in August, the Village of Evendale held its first Ladies Night at the Pool, and The Animal Friends Humane Society of Warren County held a Girls Night out to raise money for the shelter.
At St. Rita, several vendors from home-based companies like Southern Living and Pampered Chef set up for an evening of shopping. Any gifts the vendors received for their sales went to St. Rita for their annual silent auction scholarship benefit in November.
“We got at least one gift from all the vendors, like a bowl from Pampered Chef. And we got several gifts from some vendors,” St. Rita spokeswoman Angela Frith says.
St. Rita plans to hold the event again next year, she says.
“We had about 100 people this year. Hopefully it will be bigger and we can get the word out,” Frith says.
Slowly building a client base by word of mouth is one of the biggest advantages of these Ladies Night events, says Helene Oseen who runs The Pajama Party, a 14-year old business out of Alberta, Canada.
The Pajama Party is devoted to large-scale weekend get-togethers at Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, the largest luxury hotel company in North America. The weekends feature spirit renewing and fun workshops like “Look Great Naked” and “Poker Chicks 101,” wine tastings and more.
Oseen, also a Realtor, and her parties have been featured in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and More Magazine.
She came up with The Pajama Party idea “over martinis” and holds about four of the events annually. About 350 women join each party.
“(Ladies night themed events) aren’t the kinds of things you want do if you want lots of sale the first night, this is relationship building. There are a lot of products on the market, and this is a way to connect to the client, to the woman,” she says.
These events and others create a personal experience that women enjoy, and it’s one they want to revisit when deciding where to shop.
Feoshia is a former Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky daily news reporter. She now runs her own freelance writing business and blogs about the Cincinnati suburbs at www.cincyburb.blogspot.com.
Photography by Scott Beseler
Ladies enjoying a day at Tino Vino in Hyde Park
Heather Schmidt owner of Nest in Oakley
Girls Night games available at Nest
Fragrances at Nest
Necklace and bracelet available at Nest