The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce is expanding its gift certificate program in an attempt to generate $100,000 in sales for local businesses this year.
Last month, the chamber expanded its six-year-old Gloucester Gift Certificate program into the Cape Ann Gift Certificate program by adding 100 businesses from Rockport, Manchester and Essex.
The program now involves more than 220 businesses on Cape Ann that will accept the gift certificates. About 120 Gloucester businesses participated in previous years.
Bruce Coates, owner of the Emerson by the Sea Inn in Rockport, said that for five years he has been pushing for the gift certificate program to include Cape Ann businesses.
"We just signed up for the program two or three weeks ago but we are looking forward to the added exposure and seeing sales increase over the winter, which is generally a slow time," Coates said. "There has been a buzz around town, specifically for those businesses who have signed up. Everyone is glad that this has happened and it's good for everyone."
The new gift certificate made its debut during the Cape Ann Chamber's first Holiday Gift and Trade Show in early November. The event, attended by 800 Cape Ann residents and exhibitors, involved a drawing for a $500 Cape Ann Gift Certificate that was won by Gloucester resident Cheryl Favaloro.
Sara Young, the chamber's economic development manager, said the Gloucester Retail Committee and local businesses are hopeful the expanded gift certificate program will result in increased sales. The revamped program is off to a good start with $15,785 in gift certificate sales so far this month, Young said.
"This year, we have noticed a daily increase over the shopping season with the new gift certificate," Young said. "We definitely expect to see a continued increase, hopefully one that will help us break the $100,000 mark this year."
The original program was founded by the Gloucester Retail Committee, a core group of 10 Gloucester businesses that work to encourage shoppers to stay local by making shopping convenient for both consumers and retailers.
Since its inception in 2000, the gift certificate program has generated more than $400,000 in sales, with participating businesses including restaurants, gift shops, car repair shops and whale watch cruises.
"The idea was to encourage residents to understand that there are things available to buy in Cape Ann," Young said. "If shoppers had the Gloucester Gift Certificate, they would more likely shop at any of the hundreds of stores in the area rather than go out of town. For example, they may choose to shop at the Building Center instead of driving to a Home Depot."
Young said the program became so popular that gift certificate sales have doubled since the first year.
"Feedback from participants has been wonderful," Young said. "Normally, one would expect that this would be a slow time of year for Cape Ann without the tourists. On the contrary, 50 percent of yearly sales now take place during the holiday season. The reaction in Gloucester has been so good, and the interest in other towns so high, it only made sense that the program expand."
Stephanie Palazola, the office manager for Palazola's Sporting Goods, said the business has done well with the program and that it has been beneficial for the entire Cape Ann region.
"We've been really very happy with the overall program," Palazola said. "It keeps shoppers in Gloucester and it's been fantastic for local businesses at no cost to the actual business. There is really no downside for anyone to be involved."
Cape Ann Gift Certificates
* Redeemable at 230 businesses throughout Cape Ann.
* Can be purchased in any denomination from the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce offices in Gloucester and Rockport and at both Shaw's Supermarket locations in Gloucester.
* For information, call 978-283-1601
Top 10 locations where gift certificates are redeemed:
Location # of gift certificates
Amelia's Subs and Seafoods 66
Friendly's Restaurant 60
Lobsta Land 54
Liquor Locker 47
Brooks Pharmacy 46
Palazola's Sporting Goods 41
The Patio restaurant 38
Building Center 34
Gull Restaurant 32
Cape Ann Oil 19
Source: Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce