Sales of Downtown Staunton gift card soar in 2011
When the Staunton Downtown Development Association launched its low-tech gift card program in late 2007, the idea was to create a convenient, inexpensive and easily administered way to stimulate sales at downtown shops and restaurants.
With increases in Gift Card sales topping more the 50% in 2011 and participation by downtown merchants reaching more than 90 businesses, the SDDA believes the program has provided a much needed shot in the arm to downtown’s economy and empowered consumers with a visible way to participate in the Buy Local movement.
“We sold more than $70,000 in downtown gift cards in 2011 that can be redeemed at most businesses in our downtown district. That’s going to be a significant boost to our merchants in the early part of 2012 as the cards are used,” Julie Markowitz, executive director of the SDDA.
“Because this program is operated with low administrative costs and is free for merchants and consumers to use, it’s really a wonderful way to engage the community in being an active part of supporting downtown. It’s not only become a great gift, but also a powerful reward incentive that is being used by local lodging establishments and businesses to encourage visitors or employees to explore downtown. It’s exciting to see the community truly rallying around our ‘Buy Local. Give Local.’ message.”
The Downtown Staunton Gift Card is sold in denominations of $5, $10, $20 and $50 and can be used just like cash. They are available at Pufferbellies Toys & Books, Turtle Lane, The Sacred Circle, Schmid’s Printery and the SDDA office at 110 W. Johnson St. and there are no fees involved for consumers or merchants. The SDDA has worked to raise awareness of the cards the past few years with special giveaways and promotions, the most successful being a $10 bonus with the purchase of a $50 card and the introduction of ELFis, an Elvis Elf who promotes gift card sales during the holiday season.
Participation in the beginning years of the program averaged around 60 businesses and sales grew slowly. Markowitz believes in addition to constant emphasis by the SDDA, the increasing popularity of Buy Local programs and publicity surrounding national events like Small Business Saturday and Independents Week have helped raise awareness.