Last week’s column announcing the Denton City Council’s blessing of the Discover Denton Welcome Center garnered tons of positive feedback. Your comments were fantastic and positive, expressing excitement at least equal to ours.
I want to spend some time this week sharing our vision for the merchandising aspect of the welcome center. First off, it’s important to understand that the Denton Store is one piece of the overarching vision. The Discover Denton Welcome Center’s mission will be to aggressively market Denton’s assets, maximize economic impact across the city, and connect visitors and newcomers through excellent service to a complete experience of Denton as an original, independent destination. While we expect sales revenue to offset expenses to a degree, the store is an expansion of our marketing plan. We’ve done such a good job over the last few years of convincing the world out there that Denton is fun, cool and happening that our challenge now is making sure people find this Denton when they get here.
Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) will be the primary funding mechanism for the welcome center. This is a 13 percent tax collected on each room night a guest spends in a Denton hotel, six percent of which goes to the State and seven percent is collected by the City of Denton, about $2 million per year. State law limits a city’s HOT expenditures to the promotion of tourism. The welcome center absolutely meets those criteria. The first year investment in the project will be about $200,000. After the first year, we expect that revenues will partially offset that investment incrementally moving forward.
The merchandise carried in the Discover Denton Welcome Center is yet to be exactly determined. Whatever the items, they will be selected in keeping with the mission. For the sake of example, let’s use perhaps the most popular souvenir item in any destination, the T-shirt. We already sell Dentoning T-shirts in our online store. Revenue pays for the shirts, but not much more. The purpose of selling the shirts is that people love them, and when they wear them, they become walking billboards for our message. Our souvenirs will expand where and how we are able to promote Denton.
We also envision rotating inventory from local artists. There are countless artists within the Denton community, and the Discover Denton Welcome Center will be an additional outlet for introducing them to new audiences and us to them, adding wealth to both sides of our burgeoning creative economy.
Yet another sales direction will be minimal sundries currently unavailable at a downtown location. Imagine a visitor attending one of our downtown festivals on a bright, sunny day. Forgot the sun block? Need a pair of shades? These are what we mean by sundries.
Gift cards to local Denton restaurants and attractions all in one place will make giving Denton to friends and family very simple. Of course money spent in Denton businesses is good for everyone. But another result for businesses and customers alike is finding each other. We’ve all had the occasion when we received a gift card to a place we had not been and were encouraged by the gift to try it. A resulting good experience may mean a new customer, and at the least some good word-of-mouth exposure.
Tickets to the city are something many welcome/visitor centers offer. These might include anything from tickets to the North Texas Fair & Rodeo to a show at the Campus Theatre to a tour in the Horse Country and everything in between. Again, having the option to purchase a ticket on the spot will facilitate more cheeks in more seats for all of our events and venues. Plus, these experiences create richer memories for visitors, enhancing their own Denton stories.
So you see, the merchandising is more about promoting and delivering Denton than becoming a profit center. The Denton CVB is a non-profit organization. What revenue we do realize will be reinvested 100 percent back into the welcome center. Will revenue ever cover the entire project cost? No, and it is not meant to. The welcome center is about the mission. The revenue just lessens the annual cost of offering this vital service while marketing Denton in new ways at the same time.
The Discover Denton Welcome Center will not arrive to compete with existing retailers but to compliment and facilitate discovery of them. Our purpose will always be connecting visitors and the community to the Original Independent Denton experience. Like you, we can’t wait!