Keep Shoppers Local With Prepaid Cards

Community Gift Card ProgramsHow can a downtown shopping district compete with shopping malls and large retail chains? One solution is to provide shoppers with prepaid cards that can only be used at local stores. Read how StoreFinancial. has helped downtowns and communities to keep shoppers local.

Community gift card programs, or “downtown gift card programs” are having great success in making sure local shoppers stay local. These programs use prepaid debit gift cards which are issued on behalf of a downtown or community organization (such as a Chamber of Commerce or Downtown Association). Merchants that wish to participate in the program agree to accept the cards for purchases. A key feature of a successful community gift card program is that the gift cards should only be usable at participating merchants.

StoreFinancial., a payment systems processor and card program manager, provides a community gift card solution which ensures that cards issued for use in a community are only usable in that community. The programs offered by StoreFinancial are specifically designed for unaffiliated merchant groups. For example, a community with dozens of independent retailers can implement a gift card program with StoreFinancial and ensure that the gift cards may only be used to conduct purchases at the participating retailers – a cardholder cannot use the card at any retail location outside of the community.

StoreFinancial currently manages 26 downtown or community card programs. Two of the programs are Downtown Boise and Downtown Boulder.

Dave Adams manages the Downtown Boulder gift card program. According to Mr. Adams, Downtown Boulder sold about $200,000 of gift cards in 2009, and the cards can be used at 170 merchants in downtown Boulder.

Downtown Boise is enjoying sales as well. According to Karen Sander, the Executive Director of the Downtown Boise Association, they have sold approx $1.4 Million of cards since 2005, and average over 7,000 cards sold per year. The Downtown Boise cards can be used at over 250 merchant locations in Boise.

Merchants who wish to participate in the downtown programs do not require any special technology or hardware (other than a traditional credit card point of sale terminal). When a merchant wants to join and is identified by the community program, StoreFinancial adds the merchant to a list of participating merchants.

Once set up, StoreFinancial provides the customer service and processing. Both Mr. Adams and Ms. Sander agree that the customer service is excellent.

Dave related a story about a time he was eating at The Rib House in Downtown Boulder, and presented his Downtown Boulder Gift Card for payment. The server was new, and came back to Dave’s table saying that the card was declined.

Dave pulled out his cell phone and called the StoreFinancial customer service number. The customer service representative answered saying “It looks like you are at The Rib House right now. How can I help you?” Dave explained the situation, and the customer service agent said “Give your phone to the server, I’ll straighten this out.” A few minutes later, the server came back with the settled tab.

Ms. Sander provides a few tips for other downtown organizations to enjoy a successful gift card program:

Consider this a part of your marketing program and include the promotion of the gift card program in all your marketing. Communicate clearly with your merchants about the program and involve them in a training program from the get go so that everyone is on the same page. Take advantage of assistance from StoreFinancial to set up the program.

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