“Given the current economy, it makes more sense to support existing local businesses,” said Gary Farlow, president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
Farlow’s comment was part of a presentation to Chamber-member merchants gathered to discuss the launching of a new retail program that will drive spending to local businesses.
“The Chamber has been committed to the economic well-being of this community for 85 years,” Farlow said, “and numerous campaigns through the years have highlighted the importance of keeping consumer dollars in the local market. Given the state of the economy and the anticipated growth in our community over the next 10 to 15 years, we need to increase our efforts to support local businesses and the local economy.”
With the new program, the Chamber will create custom-branded, stored-value cards for Bradley County to use just like a gift card.
“The Chamber is using some of our recent capital campaign funds to launch our BuyIt*® Bradley program,” Farlow said. “We had considered spending funds for new retail recruitment programs, but the Buy it® community card program, which can help support existing local businesses, seemed to make more sense right now.”
The program gives residents an opportunity to provide the community an easy, tangible way to support Chamber-member businesses and the local economy by purchasing the community spending/gift cards. The Chamber also can monitor and track the results of these efforts easily.
According to Bernadette Douglas, project director for the new program, “The BuyIt*® Bradley card provides the community many distinct advantages. First, the card is a unique local gift-giving solution. With one card, consumers will be able to make purchases at a variety of local businesses.
“Second, when you purchase a BuyIt*® Bradley card, you actively support the local economy and help build local businesses. We believe it will also create civic pride.”
Equally important, the community card program supports the local tax base and demonstrates a commitment to a healthy local economy.
“When we have ‘leakage’ in our retail and business spending outside our community,” Farlow noted, “that lost revenue must be made up somewhere—usually through local tax rates. BuyIt*® Bradley is a simple way to try to capture as much spending locally as possible and do our part to help protect against future tax increases.”
According to Buy it Local LLC, 75 percent of Americans buy gift cards with the average card purchase valued at $125 to $150. This translates to an annual market size of $20 to 24 billion. Unfortunately, cards for local stores and local spending nationwide only represent approximately 5 percent.
Based on national retail industry standards and statistics by population, estimates for the local gift card market for Cleveland/Bradley County are between $4.6 and $6.9 million annually. The Chamber’s goal is to have at least 75 merchants participating by the end of the year and to sell $500,000 in cards through this program over the next three years.
For more information, call the Chamber at 472-6587.