Big Idea. Big Crowd – How Retail Can Revitalize

Each weekend my wife Sal and I retreat to the country in North East Victoria to reconnect with our horses, nature and ourselves (the bonus!). Nearby is a town called Alexandra with a population of about 2,000. The winters have always been long and the fogs thick. A feeling of hibernation annually descended on the town and for local businesses the outcome was less than ideal.

But back in 1997 local business operators drew a line in the mud. They came up with a bold big idea to stimulate some energy into the town. Now if I had been present and my opinion sought, I have to admit I would have said I thought it was a naff idea. Their thinking went something like this. Alexandra had always been a timber town, a big saw mill and big trucks. However,  because winter was too wet for harvesting in the surrounding mountains, all the big timber trucks sat dormant around the district. The  brain wave was simple – why not put on a truck show. Get out the spit and polish, get some trucks sparkling and park them in the main street. Pick the Queen’s Birthday weekend to host the event and let the truck gods do the rest.

Ok, what would have been your response to the idea? In 1997 the story goes that about 20 trucks lined the main street and approximately 200 turned out for the viewing. Today, more than 12,000 people turn up for the experience. They bustle up and down the main street, connecting with the town and the local traders. For many it is their biggest trading day of the year, and for community groups it is their biggest fundraiser (love those snaggers).

This year I popped into town to experience the trucks first hand. My take-out was that perhaps trucks are not my thing, but big ideas are. When you wander amongst the crowd you cannot help admire the ingenuity of the traders who put the concept together. They set out to generate a reason to bring people to town and they choose something they could own. Keep on trucking….

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

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