The St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce is offering a new initiative to boost local business as well as help consumers keep more money in their pockets as they shop for gifts this holiday season.
Meet Me in St. Albert is an all-new Visa prepaid card designed to encourage residents to shop local. The cards are available in $25, $50, or $100 denominations. They can be used for in-store or online shopping. However, the gift cards only work at local businesses with a T8N address.
Not only do businesses benefit, consumers who purchase cards valued between $100 and $500 immediately receive 20 per cent back. For instance, anyone who purchases a $100 card only pays $80.
“There are other places that used these types of cards. This was one of several ideas we considered, and it seems to be working very well,” said Shelly Nichols, chamber director of operations.
She explained the ministry of small business, export promotion, and international trade provided pandemic support to Alberta chambers of commerce with $7.2 million to boost local shopping. Based on the chamber’s membership of 740-plus businesses, St. Albert’s share was $128,340.
The chamber applied for funding in the spring and the Visa card went live on Nov. 1.
“The card is good anywhere a business takes a Visa card. It’s good until Dec. 30, 2022, and you don’t lose any money if you don’t use it.”
DCR Strategies/Trucash, an international company based in Mississauga, Ont., that manages and disburses billions of dollars annually, functions as a go-between among the chamber and Visa.
In addition to handling the cards, DCR Strategies sends reports to the chamber on people’s spending habits. In the first two weeks of November, the company reported 136 cards were activated and there were 14 transactions in St. Albert.
“First on the list was fast-food restaurants followed by discount stores. And the third were grocery stores and supermarkets. I don’t know if it’s indicative of shopping patterns or who bought the cards. I’d like to see more months of data. I’m sure it will change over time as the cards get out,” Nichol said.
She added one woman who moved from Ontario to St. Albert purchased a bundle of cards to furnish her new house.
Shannon Roche, owner of Divine and Free Wellness Spa on St. Michael Street, also purchased a stack when her business washer and dryer had to be quickly replaced.
“I was very grateful for it. You save yourself a couple of bucks. It supports city businesses, and it helps everybody. It’s going to encourage clients to come in. I also have a daughter who is disabled and AISH doesn’t help much. If I can buy her groceries and save on a washer and dryer that’s huge,” Roche said.
Areni Kelleppan, executive director of Stop Abuse in Families, is also excited about using the cards at SAIF’s Paint the Town Purple fundraiser. In this month-long campaign, 22 partner businesses have pledged an amount of money to support SAIF’s counselling programs. Anyone who shops at the businesses will receive a scratch card with a one in 100 chance of winning a T8N Visa card.
“Paint the Town Purple is local, and we wanted cards used in St. Albert. But we didn’t want to limit it to one retailer. This way you can go anywhere in the city,” said Kelleppan.
The gift card is distinctive from any other Visa cards in circulation. A likeness of St. Albert visual artist Memory’ Roth’s oil painting of the Trestle Bridge is embossed on the card. The original oil painting was sold through the St. Albert Painters’ Guild.
“It’s an iconic image of the city. And it looks really good on the card. You want something people will recognize instantly,” Nichol said.
For Roth, the delight at being selected is boundless.
“I’m thrilled they picked it. It’s one of my favourites. I’ve been telling everybody about the card. As much as I can help others, I do. We’re in this together,” said Roth.
Visa gift cards are available in person at St. Albert Chamber offices on 71 St. Albert Trail or online at www.stalbertchamber.com.