Last week the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce announced that $95,000 worth of gift certificates have been sold to date.
However, some Burns Lake residents may be choosing not to spend these dollars since approximately $10,000 worth of gift certificates have not been redeemed.
The chamber launched the local gift certificate program in November of 2015 in the hope of keeping shopping dollars in the Lakes District. The program allows consumers to purchase gift certificates from the chamber and redeem them at dozens of participating local retailers and service businesses.
But is the program really helping boost small businesses?
Since the inception of the program, women’s clothing store Aksenz Studios has had $1615 worth of gift certificates redeemed. Owner Kelly Holliday said she feels that this total is low. She also believes that those sales would’ve happened regardless of her customers having gift certificates.
“Based on the customers that I get who bring them in, they would’ve shopped here whether they had a local gift certificate here or not.”
“People need to have a better awareness of the importance of shopping local in order to keep our existing businesses open and to attract new investors to open more businesses, so our town can become more vibrant,” she added. “That’s the big picture.”
Some residents believe that a large chunk of the gift certificates are being spent at local chain stores as opposed to small businesses.
Lakes District News asked the chamber how much some of the local chain stores have earned through the local gift certificate program, but the chamber said they could not release those numbers without the approval of the chamber’s board. Lakes District News also asked the managers of three local chain stores how much they’ve earned through the program, but they did not respond by press time.
When asked if chain stores should be included in the local gift certificate program, chamber manager Randi Amendt said “absolutely.”
“We should be looking at our business community as a whole instead of being divisive,” she said. “When our businesses work together to support each other, it’s a win-win situation.”
So far in 2017, only about $1000 worth of certificates have been sold. Amendt explained that most of the gift certificates are sold around Christmas time. In November and December of 2015, almost $48,000 worth of certificates were sold; in 2016, a little over $46,000 were sold throughout the year.
The chamber is planning to celebrate their goal of selling $100,000 worth of gift certificates by giving away prizes. People will be automatically entered into a draw each time they purchase gift certificates, and once $100,000 is reached, the chamber will hold the draw and announce the winners.