Carly Meyer, business development director for the Bank of Princeton, became president of the Princeton Merchants Association in September. (Photo courtesy of Carly Meyer.)

The Princeton Merchants Association has been helping area businesses for around 10 years now,but a new board and a recent merger with Hometown Princeton have reinvigorated the organization.

The former Borough Merchants Association is in its second year under the new board, and first year under the leadership of president Carly Meyer, who succeeded former president Mark Censits in September.

Meyer said the new PMA has retained many of the principles it has always had: it’s still focused on community events, holiday storefront decoration contests and other initiatives that have the goal of attracting more customers to member businesses.

But she said the new core group of members—10 people currently sit on the board,including vice president Anita Fresolone, treasurer Lori Rabon and secretary ElizabethCasparian—have been adding more data-driven initiatives into the mix.

“The reason we did it differently was to be more focused on sales strategies and buying behaviors,” Meyer said. “And do a little more in-depth study of how do we get the revenue for these stores to be greater?”

The merger, also announced in September, united two organizations whose missions had been similar. Nick Hilton, of Nick Hilton Princeton and founder of Hometown Princeton, said the joint organization fused Hometown Princeton’s strength in marketing—including its well-known logo, which the PMA can now use—and the PMA’s advantage strengths a resource that helps Princeton business owners be better merchants.

“As a combined organization, we will be able to serve the retail community better than we would as two separate organizations,” Hilton said.

Meyer, who is assistant vice president and business development director for the Bank of Princeton, said she joined the board because she identified with what it was trying to do.

“It’s fun, really a fun group of people that are working together to build a community, and in different spaces in the market,” she said. “We’re taking a macroeconomic model and making it micro, to fit Princeton. No business should fail in Princeton if all of us are working together.”

Around 115 member businesses are listed on the PMA website, princetonmerchants.org. They are subdivided into 27 categories,including art and design, banks and finance, professional services and restaurants. Meyer said one of the association’s goals is to use information analysis to help businesses maximize earning potential.

“What we did was watch buying behavior and patterns of the Princeton consumer,” Meyer said. “And we’re trying to use those statistics to help merchants know when peak times of the day are, different strategies we can use collaboratively—actual tactical strategies.”

One initiative for 2011 that Meyer says was a success was the Princeton Waiters Race, which was held July 19 in Palmer Square. Servers from local restaurants, including the Nassau Inn, Triumph Brewing Company and the Peacock Inn competed in a speed-walking competition in which they had to balance drinks on trays without spilling them.

Meyer said the race attracted a crowd that came to see the spectacle, then stayed to patronize businesses in and around the square.

“Why not take [our] efforts to the next level?” she said. “So we took those ideas and drilled down a little bit, see how can we tactically leverage this to increase revenue.”