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The Top Five Retail Stunts Of The Year

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With only a few days left in 2009, it's time to look back at a year of dizzying highs and crushing lows, a year when every empty storefront held a pop-up shop and every sidewalk a sample sale line. Folks, it's the annual (three years running!) Racked Recap. All this week and into the next, we'll be reliving our biggest and brightest (and saddest and darkest) moments. Take a deep breath of the sweet, sweet nostalgia with the Top Five Retail Stunts of the Year

How many free totes did you score this year? Despite the recession, stores and brands whipped out their best (and cheapest) freebies to entice shoppers into the store. That, or they just dreamed up crazy contests and rode the publicity wave. 'Twas yet another year packed with retail gimmicks, and we're counting 'em down with this list of The Top Five Retail Stunts of 2009:

5. GAP's Busload of Holidays Cheerleaders: Anyone that can successfully drive a giant tour bus covered in buffalo plaid to the busiest tourist sites in New York City and then rustle up a crowd by drumming and flipping deserves a spot on this list. We witnessed firsthand how, even on a miserable rainy day, the GAP cheer squad could turn on their smiles and work up a fever for wool sweaters.

4. Whole Foods Hires Pedicabs: For many New Yorkers, hauling groceries back from the store is the the chore they least want to do. This is why god invented FreshDirect. But to brighten grocery shoppers' day, Whole Foods dispatched 16 pedicabs to give people free rides from their Union Square store to anywhere within 10 blocks. It was a cute idea, and we totally took advantage of it.

3. The Pink Topshop Truck: The day TopShop opened, the line to enter wrapped around the block. If you looked closely, you'd have noticed that most people were clutching free totes and gift cards handed out by these pink trucks that toured the city in the days before. People love free stuff for sure, and a mixed crowd grabbed the truck's goodies and followed through to give the store business. This model was somewhat copied by the Olsens' Olsenboye for JC Penney truck, but on a much smaller scale.

2. Daffy's $7,000/month Apartment Giveaway: When you talk real estate, you are speaking the language of Manhattan. Thus, Daffy's giveaway of a $7,000-a-month apartment for $700 a month (except you get prize money to even cover that) first enthralled us then enraged us. The deal was, you had to go to a Daffy's store during specific times to plead your case for the apartment in 30 seconds on camera; we swallowed our pride and joined the line snaking around the Flatiron store on our birthday, and yet the final winner was the Carrie Bradshaw wannabe girl. Are we bitter? A little, but then we did name the whole stunt #2 on our list.

1. Fashion's Night Out: Where do we start with FNO? Anna Wintour and Vogue, along with DVF and the CFDA and Fashion Week got together to devise an entire evening of fashion and shopping events all over town. A bit like the concept of a "white night," stores stayed open late, served up booze and discounts, and invited models and designers to DJ, teach dance lessons and play fashion Jeopardy. It was an evening full of brands doing their best to be interactive and on the street, and it must have been something of a success because it's coming back again next year.
· Racked Recaps 2009 [Racked]
· Racked Recap 2008: The Year In Stunts [Racked]