Website launched to buy gift cards to keep Greater Victoria businesses going through COVID-19

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WatchEven with the federal subsidies, many businesses are still left trying to pay for things like rent and utilities to keep going. And even though it may be nearly impossible to get customers through the doors one group has found a solution to help keep Greater Victoria shops going. Julian Kolsut reports.

A local organization has set up a website that will help sell gift cards to keep businesses across Greater Victoria going.

The site is called supportlocalyyj.com and was set up by Think Local First. It allows buyers to buy gift cards from dozens of local shops.

“It’s an opportunity for anybody to purchase any type of a gift card, from 10 dollars to 25, 5o and 100. To be able to support their local favourite,” said Steve Pearce, president of Think Local First.

They collaborated with Vancity so that businesses get the full value of the gift cards without processing costs.

They are looking to take the idea to the rest of the province. The concept began in Ontario.

“There was a similar initiative that started in Cornwall Ontario. So I reached out to them and say how did you create this, what tools did you use, and basically I replicated it for greater Victoria’s local businesses,” said Michèle Hamilton, Think Local First Managing Director.

Every dollar matters for businesses to keep them afloat, as the recent federal programs only cover wages.

“They also have rent and insurance and hydro and just your regular pay… for a lot of business owners this is their only form of income,” said Pearce.

COVID-19 has resulted in a major economic downturn. Many businesses have had to shut down for the time being.

Robinsons Outdoor Store is one of the local businesses that have closed their doors temporarily, but they are still filling orders through the phone.

“It’s very heartwarming and we appreciate every sale,” said Robinsons co-owner Erin Boggs.

The store is on Think Local First’s site.

“That’s super helpful, that helps bring the community together,” said Robinsons co-owner Matt King.

“We have super loyal customers… and just by purchasing a gift card it gives us a little bit more cash flow that you can use later on.”

For Robinsons, you can use the gift cards right away. But Think Local First says if you can try to wait.

“We are asking the people to not spend the gift cards until a couple months after we are able to be out and all the businesses are open again,” said Hamilton.

“We don’t want to create another cash-flow bottleneck so that everybody is using these gift-cards as soon as these businesses open.”

It’s a way to keep the shops around, so when we do hit the streets they will be there to greet us.

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