Chamber: Initiative is producing results

Published 11:32 am Sunday, December 12, 2010

Staff Writer

The Washington-Beaufort Chamber of Commerce started the Buy Local gift certificate program last November.
The program already has created a stir in the economy for Beaufort County businesses, according to the chamber.
Catherine Glover, executive director of the chamber, said the program is intended to remind people to keep the money here in the county.
“You can spend the gift certificates here in the county at more than 40 businesses that accept them,” she said. “What we’re doing is keeping money in the county and generating revenue for the businesses here.”
She added the Buy Local initiative is creating a boost in harsh economic times for everyone in Beaufort County, as patrons can shop in the county and not have to drive great distances for Christmas or holiday gifts.
“We started the program last November in 2009, and are pleasantly surprised at how well it has taken off in just a short period of time from Thanksgiving to Christmas,” Glover said. “Last year, in the same frame, we sold 500 gift certificates. And this year, in the same time, we’ve already sold 1,100 in the past three weeks.”
In just over one year, the program has generated more than $32,000 that has been spent locally in Beaufort County just from the gift certificates, she said.
“We can also track how much is spent at one business,” Glover said. “And employers like the gift certificates because it’s giving their employees the opportunity to choose where to shop and go to different businesses.”
Last year, Glover said, there were even gas stations on the gift certificate list of businesses.
Glover said the chamber has received an order for 600 gift certificates and two orders for close to 70 gift certificates.
“We keep telling people they need to ‘buy local’ and that’s what this is doing,” she said. “And it shows in how much has already been generated. So far, this has been a very successful program, and we hope it will continue and only get bigger and better.”
The gift certificate program is offered year-round, for birthday celebrations, parties, gift-giving ideas, and so forth. But a big portion of the sales are generated during the winter holiday season.
Glover added one big corporation purchased several hundred gift certificates for their employees, and several other small businesses have purchased groups of 50, 60 and so on. The gift certificates can be purchased for any amount, but Glover said the majority of those already purchased have been for $20 to $25 each.
According to Glover, instead of driving to several businesses and getting gift certificates at each one, patrons can stop in at the chamber’s office and get as many gift certificates for several different stores at the same place at the same time, which cuts down on holiday driving and saves time.
“The employers can give the gift certificates to their employees to use at 40 different businesses here in Beaufort County,” she said. “And they can choose where they want to spend the certificate. And these are stores and businesses that give back to our community, so it works out on both ends.”
For example, gift cards/certificates that are purchased at one business have to be spent at that business. However, with the Buy Local Gift Certificates, you can use them at any of the 40-plus businesses that accept them in the county, which range from clothing stores, restaurants, learning centers, jewelry stores and more.
For a complete list of what is offered, stop by the chamber from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, or call the chamber at 252-946-9168.