Community

Shop local effort seeks to strengthen community

A program designed to call attention to local merchants and offer incentives for those who support them has taken root in Port Orchard.

“When you do have a choice, it’s a good thing to shop locally,” said Darryl Baldwin, who owns Moondogs Too in downtown Port Orchard. “It keeps the money in the community.”

Shop SK First is an awareness campaign sponsored by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce to provide an understanding and increase awareness of the impact buying decisions have on the financial success of the community.

While the program has a strategy, its message is simple: When someone decides to make a purchase, they should first look for it in South Kitsap.

If what you’re looking for isn’t available in SK, seek a source within the county.

After that, look around Washington state, and the United States.

If the item is not available in those places, only then look overseas.

The process is based on the generation of tax dollars as well as the distribution of money. If a customer purchases an item within the Port Orchard city limits, the city gets a higher percentage of the sales tax and the store’s employees — who are presumably local residents — spend their money in the community.

Shop SK First spokespeople Mallory Jackson and Bek Ashby have made dozens of presentations throughout the area. In doing so, they point out that 78 cents of every dollar spent locally stays in the community.

The rate declines for merchants outside of the county and the state.

“I always ask how many people shop at Costco in Silverdale or Gig Harbor,” Jackson said. “I then ask how many shop in Silverdale, and it’s half as many. “So I point out that shopping in Kitsap keeps more money for Port Orchard than shopping in Pierce County. And the two Costcos are about an equal distance from here.”

Jackson is a local sole-proprietor merchant, and would like to see more people support small businesses like hers. Still, she doesn’t paint “big box” stores with a broad negative brush, since a local Lowes store generates a healthy share of taxes.

“If it wasn’t for the new Lowes, we wouldn’t have gotten so many lights downtown this past holiday season,” she said.

Like its message, the Shop SK First program isn’t especially complicated. Customers get free rewards cards, which participating merchants will stamp when a purchase is made.

After five stamps the card is entered into a monthly drawing, where the customer can win a $100 gift certificate — redeemable at any of the merchants.

Participating businesses can offer a discount to cardholders, or not. And customers can enter as many times as they want.

“The more cards you turn in, the better chance you have to win a gift certificate,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Coreen Haydock Johnson.

The cards are free, but each merchant pays $50 per year to participate. Jackson expects to recruit 70 local businesses, which means the chamber will have $3,500 for marketing, promotion and to reimburse the merchant for the cost of the goods.

There are still some details to be resolved. If someone wins $100 and wants to eat at Moondogs, they might have some money left over.

The chamber is working on a way to allow the winner to distribute the gift certificate over several participating businesses.

Johnson said this week the goal of 70 businesses has already been achieved. Businesses can still join, but will not be listed in the original ad copy.

The official kickoff for the program will take place from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. on May 2, at Scott McLendon’s Hardware on Mile Hill Road.

The chamber will distribute the cards at that time, and a free pancake breakfast will be served.

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