BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Some local businesses are finding it harder to keep the lights on as more people stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without customer support, less money circulates through local economies, which could be detrimental to smaller communities.
Sustainable Connections, in collaboration with economic development agencies in Whatcom County, put a virtual twist to an annual campaign to support local business. The group is offering the Whatcom Think Local First Gift Card. It’s a community-based digital gift card to keep local spending local. Customers can use the digital gift card in-store or online at more than 150 businesses across the county.
“It’s actually putting money right back into the stores, into our community as quickly as we can,” said Amy Vergillo, communications manager for Sustainable Connections. “Their businesses are hurting a lot and they need all the support they can get.”
Keeping the heart of what makes Whatcom County unique is why the Think Local First Gift Card is so important, especially now as shops are competing for more than ever before with online purchases.
“If you picture the money that you spend getting siphoned out of your community and how that would just drain the character, it drains the personality, it drains the businesses,” said Paul Hanson, co-owner of Village Books and Paper Dreams.
Fairhaven Toy Store owner, Tina Anderson, said the community has been the lifeline supporting local shops through these tough times.
“Not even just buying from us but asking us how are you doing, are you okay, you going to make it. I feel like it’s genuine concern,” said Anderson. “They all still want the toy store to be here in the future. So, I feel like all of their purchases are a vote for making that happen.”
“It’s always a supportive community and we know where going to get through this together,” said Hanson.
Vergillo said, while supplies last, bonus gift cards will be given to those who purchase a gift card. In an email, Vergillo explained, “For every $25 spent in gift cards, an additional $10 bonus gift card is awarded; for every $50 spent, $20 is awarded; and for every $100 spent, $40 is awarded. The bonus gift cards have an expiration date of December 31, 2020 to ensure that the money benefits our local businesses as quickly as possible.”
Sustainable Connections also created The Local Gift Guide. It features more than 430 stores in the county for gift ideas based on price, category and location. This is another way to serve local businesses heading into the holidays as the pandemic continues.
More information about the gift card and gift guide is available at thinklocalfirst.com.