Lindsay Downtown BIA sparks successful ‘shop local’ holiday passport program

By Lindsay Advocate

Melissa McFarland and Charlie McDonald of the Lindsay Downtown BIA.

On November 16, 2018, the Lindsay Downtown BIA launched the Holiday Passport program, to encourage both the local community and visitors to take advantage of everything downtown Lindsay has to offer during the holiday season.

Running for six weeks, the program drew to a close on December 20, with a draw for massive gift baskets. In the weeks before, the Lindsay Downtown BIA’s marketing committee pounded the downtown sidewalks, pitching the idea to the local merchants, who almost unanimously supported the idea.

Each merchant was provided with a stack of blank passports and a unique stamp, and the promotion kicked off the weekend of the Santa Claus parade – the unofficial start to the holiday season. Instantly appealing to the local residents, the passport provided an incentive for shopping local during the holiday season.

The program exists in other communities, with varying requirements of number of businesses to visit, or minimum purchases to make. Lindsay’s passport wanted to focus on exposure to the businesses, and not just the dollars spent, so to complete a passport, participants needed to make a purchase – any purchase, no minimum – in eight different businesses downtown, 82 of which were participating merchants. Once eight stamps were achieved, shoppers could drop their competed passport in one of the ballot boxes scattered through the downtown, and were welcome to complete as many as they wanted in the six week period.

What made the promotion unique was the approach to the prizes – instead of giving away cash, or asking the participating businesses to donate items, the BIA (which had financial support through a program put on by OMAFRA) committed to making a purchase from every one of the businesses who participated in the program, in order to support their local merchants.

Gift certificates were purchased from the restaurants and services, and merchandise unique to each store was selected – for a total of $3,000 worth of goods. These prizes were divided among huge wicker baskets and wrapped up to make three spectacular gift baskets to be given away. These gift baskets are a true reflection of the unique flavour of the downtown. Many people were completing passports as soon as the first week had passed, and even some residents who voiced concern that they don’t really shop in the downtown got into the spirit when they realized that the restaurants, coffee shops, dollar stores, drugstores and services were participating, and the eight stamps required was not insurmountable.

Merchants have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic about how this program has benefited their businesses, and brought people through their doors who may have not shopped or dined there previously. Both the business and residential community have asked repeatedly that the program become an annual tradition, which with the incredibly positive feedback, the BIA can see no reason why it wouldn’t be, as one of the most successful ‘shop local’ campaigns ever done by the organization.

At the time of the draw 600 completed passports had been submitted, which represents an astonishing 5,000 purchases made in from downtown businesses. This program has renewed the faith of the Downtown BIA that with a little incentive, the local community is willing to support their small business community, and continue to work to making the downtown a thriving, vibrant, economically successful place to work, live and play

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