A new initiative aims to spread the shopping around in downtown Indiana, and those behind the effort hope it will pay dividends for local businesses.
Starting Nov. 30, the Downtown Dollars program will allow business owners in the borough to offer credits to customers, which they can, in turn, use when patronizing other participating shops and professional services.
The program was initiated by Downtown Indiana Inc.
At businesses accepting the Downtown Dollars, the credits will be treated the same as cash, according to Stephanie Smith Cooney, who sits on the Downtown Indiana board of directors.
“We’re all just really excited to see what it does for people,” she said. “I’m hopeful it will help (shoppers) spend more and go to more shops.”
The dollars can be combined with other sales and promotions, offering savings to customers.
“Ultimately, they could be receiving a pretty steep discount, depending on the sales that day,” she said.
The new program is timed to coincide with Small Business Saturday, a nationwide effort sponsored by American Express that aims to promote local business one day after the shopping frenzy of Black Friday.
While the day after Thanksgiving once was a popular one for many businesses, it now has become the territory of large retailers, said Downtown Indiana President Josh Rosenberger.
“It’s kind of turned into box store madness,” he said.
Instead of trying to compete with that, local merchants now focus on Small Business Saturday, according to Rosenberger.
When Downtown Indiana members were brainstorming ways to further invigorate this year’s local Small Business Saturday shopping, they came upon the idea for the Downtown Dollars.
The goal? To encourage shoppers to explore what downtown offers and to patronize numerous small businesses in Indiana Borough.
Downtown Dollars vouchers will be good from Nov. 30 to Dec. 24.
Those at DI cite benefits that extend beyond the cash Downtown Dollars will save or the business it will stoke.
The promotion will keep more money in the local economy, foster positive community relationships on both an economic and social front, and promote sustainable shopping and save on gas, since the downtown area is walkable.
The response to the program has been good, organizers said. Even so, there is still time for interested businesses to sign on.
The incentive is one that, if successful, may even be continued on a regular basis, according to those at DI.
If the response is anything like that of shoppers to Small Business Saturday, that may well be the case.
In the few years since business owners began taking part in Small Business Saturday, interest has grown among both customers and retailers, according to Smith Gatti.
“Each year, there’s just a little more hype surrounding the day,” she said. “To have a day set aside for the private merchants and have it become popular, that’s exciting.”
If you’re a business owner and are interested in participating in the Downtown Dollars program, contact Downtown Indiana Inc. at (724) 463-6110 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.downtownindiana.org.