As the holiday season approaches, local business associations are uniting to offer shoppers an easy-to-use digital gift card that can be used at dozens of local shops.
“The Bucks Stay Here” promotion launched on Oct. 19 and will run indefinitely.
Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association (MPBHBA) Executive Director Caroline Connors said that while many people like purchasing gift cards to big-box corporations like Amazon, this program is similar—but hyperlocal.
“This is like a universal local card,” Connors said. “We want this to be like the go-to card for the 19th Ward, where the person who has it can use it at a variety of different places so you’re not running around to 15 different places trying to purchase gift cards.”
The MPBHBA is partnering with the 95th Street Beverly Hills Business Association and the Mt. Greenwood Community and Business Association on the promotion, with over 40 business participating.
The digital gift cards can be purchased on the associations’ websites, with purchases ranging from $5 to $250.
Participants don’t receive an actual card—instead, the information is stored on smartphones and can be texted or emailed to users, or they can print their information out.
The business associations will provide a list of participating businesses, and signage will be posted at shops telling customers they are participating.
Users just have to pull up their 16-digit number upon checking out.
“We are hoping that once businesses see that it’s a successful program, that they’ll be inclined to participate,” Connors said. “The beauty of it is there isn’t a cost to the merchant. There is a transaction fee, but so far, we’ve secured several sponsors … that will cover the transaction fee initially.”
The 19th Ward Youth Foundation, County Fair Foods, in Morgan Park, and Semmer Landscape, LLC, in Blue Island, are the sponsors, Connors said; she hopes for more sponsors to join, which would potentially allow for bonus gift cards to be available.
Participating businesses range from retail shops to restaurants to service providers, Connors said.
She said the card, which does not have an expiration date, is an ideal gift between relatives or for businesses to give to employees—especially because holiday parties might not be held this year due to COVID-19.
She hopes out-of-state relatives looking for gifts for loved ones will purchase cards.
“It doesn’t just have to be a local resident buying it,” Connors said. “It can be people outside the area that have family or friends that live here.”
With just a few clicks online, holiday shopping can be taken care of, she said.
“Most people have a smartphone. It’s very easy to send a gift this way, by simply sending it to a recipient’s email or their phone number,” Connors said. “It takes some of the legwork out of having to run around and deliver a physical gift to someone.”
Connors said she learned of the program through a Facebook group consisting of other chambers of commerce.
She recognizes the practicality of shopping online, she said, but she hopes people “try to shop locally first” during the holidays—especially because businesses have needed to fight tooth and nail since the public health crisis took hold.
“We really want to support our local businesses,” Connors said. “I think they’ve been amazing in consistently trying to think outside the box and trying to improve their service over the past few months. If we can try to help them recover a little bit of what was lost since March, then we would love to be able to do that.”