When we talk about shopping local, and keeping our dollars circulating in WNY, talk is one thing, action is another. And that’s why Erie County and Amherst Chamber of Commerce’s Shop 716 campaign was (and still is) so incredible. Over the course of 4 weeks, leading into the holidays, over $1 million dollars was raised to support small, local businesses of all sorts. I was so amazed at the response, that I decided to call Christine Langenfeld at the Chamber to ask her about the program.
“We learned that Erie County had funding available that needed to be spent by the end of the year,” explained Langenfeld. “We realized how important it was to determine the fastest way to get the funds directly to small businesses that were struggling during the pandemic. A suggestion was made to launch a gift card program, but we didn’t have time to set something up – that’s why we partnered with Yiftee, an app that already works with 150 chambers throughout the country. We launched the program on November 10.”
The reason that this program was so successful is that the monetary boost from Erie County equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars of matching funds. That meant that people could purchase a $25 gift card (for example), and the funds would be matched dollar for dollar. What’s not to like about that?
It is now clear that this sudden “aha” moment has become another lifeline for small businesses. It turns out that upwards of 700 businesses are now participating in the program. And even though there are no longer any matching Erie County funds remaining, the program is still open for anyone to purchase gift cards that are redeemable at any one of the participating business. On top of that, gift card recipients are now out there spending over a million dollars locally!
The Amherst Chamber of Commerce is in place to support all businesses in WNY.
Those who purchased gift cards, and had them sent to friends, family members, and co-workers, should be happy knowing that their dollars (and the matching dollars) will help to bolster the WNY small business economy. As for the recipients of those cards, they should get out there and make purchases as soon as they can, to fortify the shops during the holidays. Also, the Erie County matching funds (the bonus card) must be spent by December 30 – this was done intentionally, as a way to demonstrate a sense of urgency. The original gift card – the one actually purchased by the customer – does not expire.
Now that the Buy One Get One promo for the Shop Local Campaign has officially ended, the Chamber is inviting any and all area businesses to sign up, even those outside of Erie County.
There is no cost for merchants to sign up. A current list of participating businesses can be found here.
There’s still time to support hundreds of WNY shops and establishments that are open for business during the holidays – you can purchase an eGift Card today at amherst.org/shop716.
Lead image: Participating shop – Wild Birds Unlimited (nature shop) | Business owner, Angel Swann