For millions of high schools and colleges, it’s homecoming season. The American tradition got its start on college campuses over a century ago, when alumnae returned to celebrate the biggest football game of the year. Today it’s spread to high schools as well, with dances, dinners, photo sessions and parades. Homecoming events affect businesses throughout a community. Here are some angles to pursue when reporting on the money behind homecoming in your town.
No room at the inn
Alumnae returning to their college campus are one of the biggest economic forces in homecoming. The Pine Bluff Commercial reports that the local University of Arkansas homecoming has by far the year’s largest financial impact on the town; over 18,000 people visit campus during homecoming, fully occupying all 600 hotel rooms in the city. Similar impacts are reported by Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., where homecomers are predicted to dump some $1 million into local hotels and restaurants over the course of a weekend.
Mini-boom for retailers
High school homecoming can have a major impact on local retailers. One example is apparel. Maria Antonieta, owner of an eponymous Portland, ME-based formal store, says her business gets a significant boost from homecoming dances. She reports that most girls who come into her shop will spend an average of $150 on dresses; add alterations or a handmade, custom dress, and the price can easily rise to $500. Teen boys in her area often opt to rent a tuxedo, which will run around $80. According to the Chicago Tribune’s teen website, themash.com, while homecoming isn’t as big a deal as prom, a new dress and accessories are standard purchases.
Good news for service providers
Providers of personal services—hair salons, day spas—also see an uptick in business during homecoming season. Spas offer homecoming specials on everything from tanning sessions to eyelash extensions. Transportation services are another thriving homecoming industry. Some limousine companies estimate that as much of one-tenth of their income can be generated during that time of year. Rates vary widely across the country, but the average limo rental runs from $600 to $900 for six hours. And depending on your community, teens may go out for dinner before the homecoming dance, with a financial payoff for local restaurants.
• In a college or university town, homecoming should have a major effect on hotels’ business and occupancy levels. Compare occupancy and hotel room rates around homecoming season with other busy times of the year, such as parents’ weekends and commencement.
• Local retailers should be able to identify the impact of homecoming on their sales. Investigate how much of a boost a business receives when homecoming season rolls around, and what kind of preparations are made in advance.
• Service providers that see a strong increase in business at homecoming are likely may take on seasonal staffers. Look into seasonal specials and extended hours. How much additional earnings are they expecting this year?