Winter is here and that means Christmas is approaching.
It also means that Lacombe and Blackfalds have begun their ‘Passport to Christmas’ programs, run by the communities’ respective Chambers of Commerce. Kim Berube, executive director of Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce, said the objective is to expose consumers to the wonderful shopping experiences in Lacombe and encourage them to do their shopping, Christmas or otherwise, locally.
“There are a lot of beautiful shops in Lacombe,” said Berube.
Lacombe’s Passport to Christmas program is modeled directly after the Blackfalds Chamber of Commerce program of the same name. Berube said the Lacombe Chamber heard the program had been successful in Blackfalds and decided to emulate it in Lacombe.
“Basically we didn’t reinvent the wheel,” said Berube. “It was a really successful program the way it was being run so we just decided to recreate it here.”
Shirley Johnson, president of the Blackfalds and District Chamber of Commerce, said that the Blackfalds program was created using ideas from a number of other programs in the area, including one that Lacombe had been doing in the early 90s.
Businesses pay a small fee to participate in the ‘Passport to Christmas’ program and then distribute passports to participating customers. Customers have their passports stamped once for every $10 spent in a participating business.
It takes 30 stamps to fill in a passport. Once completed, filled passports are returned and entered into a draw for prizes in ‘Lacombe Bucks’ or ‘Blackfalds Bucks’, depending on the community. Lacombe/Blackfalds bucks are gift certificates redeemable at any store participating in the respective Passport to Christmas program.
Prize pools for the programs in both communities are the same. The grand prize is $1,000 in Lacombe/Blackfalds Bucks, second prize is $500, and third is $250.
Johnson said Blackfalds has been running the program for about 10 years now. She added the benefits to Blackfalds businesses are many.
Over the years Blackfalds has run the Passport to Christmas program, participating businesses have seen an increase in spending during the program, said Johnson. Not only is the program a good incentive for customers to shop local, it is also an opportunity for businesses to thank them for doing so.
“It’s a bit of a reward for their customers,” said Johnson. “It’s a way to say thank you for your continued business.”
Both Berube and Johnson spoke of the challenges small businesses face in smaller communities, such as encouraging residents to shop local. This problem is related to many of the others faced by small business, like stay open for hours that accommodate the public, having enough staff, and trying to do everything at once with limited resources, said Berube.
Another challenge small businesses face is advertising and promotion, which can be expensive for any business, regardless of size. Passport to Christmas attempts to address that problem by handling the promotion and advertising for the event. Both Johnson and Berube said that exposure businesses receive is one of the program’s biggest benefits.
Passports for either the Lacombe or Blackfalds Passport to Christmas program can be picked up at the respective Chamber offices or any participating business.