After an incredibly successful launch campaign that injected over $1 million into our local economy, the organizers of the Shop 716 program are reminding purchasers to make sure they spend their Erie County sponsored FREE bonus gift cards by December 30.
Earlier this year, Erie County assembled a business task force to find ways to address the hardships that local businesses were experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the outcomes was the development of the Shop716 e-Gift Card program through the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, where consumers could buy gift cards that are redeemable at numerous local businesses.
“They were trying to figure out how to inject some funding directly to our local independent businesses that are suffering and struggling through all the state requirements of shutting down and having a need for PPE and all of those things,” said Christine Langenfeld, Director of Marketing and Operations at the Amherst Chamber of Commerce. “What we decided on was a gift card program where Erie County could offer these bonus free gift cards to help stimulate immediate local spending.”
From mid-November through early December, those who bought a Shop 716 gift card for use at a local business received a supplemental bonus gift card to spend immediately, creating twice the economic impact with the matching funds from Erie County. The show of support from the local community was overwhelming, Langenfeld notes, and the promotional gift cards sold out on December 9. At this point, almost $400,000 of the bonus gift cards have been redeemed at our local businesses.
Those who purchased Shop 716 gift cards during the launch promotion and received a bonus gift card MUST spend the bonus card by December 30. With the holidays coming up and over 700 local merchants to choose from, there’s plenty of opportunity to spend those gift cards and get the money into the hands of small business owners who need it now more than ever.
“You need to support local, because our local businesses help employ our local people – our friends and neighbors,” Langenfeld said.
If we support small businesses, we are nurturing entrepreneurship. It helps economic recovery, it helps stimulate building and the ability to revitalize neighborhoods. Keeping the shop local theme is what’s going to help the success of Buffalo and Erie County.”
Even though the launch promotion has ended, those who want to continue to support local businesses throughout the holiday season and beyond can purchase a Shop 716 eGift Card year-round. The gift cards are electronic and can be used at any of the 700 merchants listed on the program website. You can buy them for yourself or easily email or text them to a giftee.
“It is only for local independent businesses,” Langenfeld said. “It will never have any big box retailers or large grocery stores because that’s not the spirit of the program. The spirit of it is to shop local, support local whether its business to consumer or even business to business. Businesses need help with printing and supplies. So we’re hoping that within that ‘shop local, support local’ theme, businesses are supporting each other to get what they need for their product and services.”
While the free promotional gift cards provided by Erie County do expire on December 30, the Shop 716 cards have no expiration date. You can purchase an e-gift card at any time by visiting https://amherst.org/shop716/ and click “buy now.” You can purchase cards in denominations of $25, $50, $100, or $250 and text or email the card to whoever you would like to receive it. Those gift cards are redeemable at any of the 700 merchants listed on the website, making them incredibly convenient for holiday gifting, because you don’t need to buy separate gift cards for all your favorite local spots. The list of participating merchants is expanding rapidly, and in 2021 the program will be opened up to businesses throughout Western New York.
“It’s interesting because when we originally started doing this we knew restaurants would hop on board, and that our little retail shops, spas, nail salons, etc. would participate. But now we have all kinds of businesses and services that include business consulting, CPAs, photographers, alpaca farms, local farming co-ops, CBD stores, and jewelers. As long as you can accept a Mastercard you can accept a Shop 716 e-Gift Ccard and there’s no cost to the merchant to do so,” Langenfeld said.
The feedback from local business owners participating in the Shop 716 program has been overwhelmingly positive and appreciative. “We have a dance studio owner who is over the moon,” Langenfeld said. “She was able to make it through the winter with parents and grandparents being able to purchase the gift cards to help the students stay in dance class.”
Langenfeld notes that the Shop 716 program wouldn’t have been possible without the funding from the Erie County Economic Development Office and their commitment to invest in our local businesses. She also recognizes Visit Buffalo Niagara as being a major proponent of the shop local movement.
“They’re Buffalo’s biggest cheerleader out there, and they live and breathe anything that promotes our community,” she said. “To be collaborative with all these different organizations and for the chambers to come together to provide more resources to assist our businesses in this COVID recovery is just very heartwarming. It’s so critical and so important.”
Those who received a bonus gift card when they purchased a Shop 716 EGift Ceard will be receiving an email reminder to spend it by December 30. To check your gift card balance, or to purchase a Shop 716 gift card, click here.