706 people received $20 to $50 to spend at 96 local businesses through the Thompson Chamber of Commerce’s shop local promotion.
Gift cards were given out to the first 700 passers-by during the recent culmination of the promotion at City Centre Mall. In less than two hours, nearly $20,000 to spend at these businesses was given to people with no strings attached.
“Pretty much the entire amount was gifted out,” said the chamber’s Dennis Green, referring to $19,675 that the Thompson chamber received from the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce for a shop local campaign. “We got hugs, we got handshakes. People were very very excited about this. The response was very, very positive.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on small businesses, with people at times forced to stay home, leading to an explosion in the amount of online shopping and the profits of industry giants like Amazon.
“Shopping online seems to be taking over the commerce of many small businesses,” Green said.
The hoped-for outcome of the shop local campaign is twofold, Green says. First of all, it can help expose shoppers to smaller, sometimes home-based businesses that they weren't aware of before.
“A lot of these smaller companies don’t have the luxury of a storefront where people can walk by it all the time,” said Green. “They have to rely on craft sales, trade shows and for the last two years they’ve all been cancelled. This was a way of introducing their name to 706 potential people.”
The campaign also keeps money circulating in the local economy through the multiplier effect.
“That much money went directly into the community,” Green said. “The money that we spend, they will spend that locally as well. We’re hoping that the net result of this campaign will be much higher. We’ll be sending out a survey to all 96 businesses as to the response they got from the cards. What is the significance of this to them? We really hopes it makes a difference and they have a wonderful Christmas.”
In addition to giving away gift certificates, the chamber also collected a shopping cart full of non-perishable food to donate to those in need.
The chamber hopes this campaign can be repeated in the future.
“We hope to do it again next year,” Green said, if the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce continues to provide funding to promote local shopping. “We hope to make this an annual event.”