The Downtown Dollars program was created to support "buying local” in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. The Ardmore Initiative began by holding a focus group with business owners and financial experts to craft and design the program. The program’s goal was to provide Downtown Dollars at a discount of 50% of their face value to shoppers in the Ardmore community, who could then spend the Downtown Dollars at local Ardmore businesses. $15,000 Downtown Dollars were released in the community in May, 2010, generating, as of Sept. 16, 2010 total sales of $19,000+ at 47 local businesses.
Ardmore Initiative funded the program’s first roll out, and printed the dollars through a partnership with a local printing service. The result of the program was increased spending with locally owned "Mom and Pop" businesses in the small town of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, at no cost to the businesses, and an increased awareness of the variety of stores that exist in downtown Ardmore.
Ardmore Initiative - Ardmore, Pennsylvania, United States
As a community based economic development office, Ardmore Initiative was attuned to the health and welfare of local retailers and shoppers. Through talking with local merchants and civic associations, as well as by conducting more formal interviews and planned focus group meetings, they determined priority concerns for area merchants and consumers. In those discussions, a common thread that emerged was the current state of the economy, and the resultant decreased disposable income for consumers, which has led to decreased spending with local shops and services.
The mission of the program was twofold: to aid local retailers that face overwhelming competition from big-box stores, discounters, and online shopping, and to encourage shoppers to spend locally. To involve the community in the planning and strategizing, Ardmore Initiative held focus groups with local retailers and consumers to shape the initial plan for the program, and conducted meetings of the board (which is comprised of local residents and business owners). The discussions were facilitated by a psychologist who specializes in consumer spending, and the intended result of the program was to increase and encourage consumer spending among local retailers. Initially shoppers could purchase up to $200 worth of Downtown Dollars for half price and spend the dollars for face value with participating businesses. Merchants then redeemed the dollars at the Ardmore Initiative for their full value, meaning that the program offered consumers a 50% discount on purchases, at no cost to the merchants.
After the focus groups, Ardmore Initiative created guidelines and determined the parameters of the program, enrolling businesses to accept Downtown Dollars, and providing them with instructions and marketing materials. Ardmore Initiative displayed posters in the windows of participating businesses posted a list of those businesses on their website. They advertised the program on the website, through E-blasts, and in the local newspaper. Beginning in early May 2010, Downtown Dollars were sold in the Ardmore Initiative office, at special events, and online. The Initiative funded the first round of Downtown Dollars with a small outlay of $7500 from their operating budget. The volunteer Board of Directors then leveraged the overwhelming success and positive press received from the first round of Downtown Dollars to reach out to local community banks for additional funding to continue the program.
Ardmore Initiative kept detailed records of how many Downtown Dollars were issued, and how many were purchased and redeemed. The results showed that consumers were spending on average 41% over the value of the Dollars. If this trend holds, it will generate an almost 3:1 return on investment, which suggests that there was a significant financial impact. The Downtown Dollars sold out within minutes of their first rollout, another indicator of local interest in the program, and of the success of the marketing efforts. Even with the initial success of the program, adjustments were made to improve upon the second issuance of the dollars. Such changes included adjustments to the dispersion of the dollars to reduce the amount individuals could purchase from $200 to $100, and elimination of online purchasing of the dollars, and implementation of a lottery system to allow more shoppers to take advantage of the program.
The Downtown Dollars program was a tremendous success. The program greatly increased awareness and patronage of local businesses, a lasting and valuable impact. The Ardmore Initiative has worked for years to forge partnerships and relationships with a variety of donors - from local businesses to banks and large corporations, and will continue to do so. The volunteer Board of Directors live and work in our community and are committed to Ardmore’s success and continuing fundraising and grant writing efforts to support the program.
Since its rollout in May 2010, 104 consumers have purchased $15,000 worth of Downtown Dollars. As of September 16, $12,000 have been redeemed, generating $19,412.82 in total sales. Consumers are spending on average, 41% over the value of the dollars. The volunteer Board of Directors leveraged the overwhelming success and positive press received from the first round of Downtown Dollars and reached out to local community banks for additional funding to continue the program. Four local banks contributed $10,000, which resulted in $20,000 additional Downtown Dollars being distributed in the fall to encourage shoppers to buy local during the important holiday shopping season.
Ardmore Initiative's Website: http://destinationardmore.com/ardmoreinitiative/