Shop SK First program builds awareness, seeks participants

The first eight months of the Shop SK First program sponsored by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce raised awareness of local businesses, although its true impact cannot be measured.

“We’ve had a good response since starting this in May,” said Chamber Executive Director Coreen Haydock Johnson. “But for our second year we would like to take some steps to get some more interest in the program.”

Johnson said that building the awareness is a major effort, but there is no system in place to determine the aggregate increase or decrease of local business, and why it occurs.

The process resembles the cards that have become popular in all stripes of retail, from baristas to bookstores. The user carries a card that provides a premium after gathering a certain number of stamps. In this case, customers are required to get five stamps from one of about 80 sponsors (different, or all from the same location). When completed the card is entered and drawn at the monthly chamber meeting, and the winner gets a $100 gift certificate that can be spent individually or collectively with the sponsors.

So far, eight people have received a certificate. Their chances are pretty good, since only about 25 cards are turned in each month. Johnson would like to see this number increase, mindful “there are a lot of people who have a card and get it stamped a few times and forget to turn it in.”

Some of the winners are active in the chamber.

“My name was picked at one of the first drawings but I put it back,” Johnson said. “If I win again I’ll just keep it, since I spend a lot at local merchants anyway.”

While almost all of the merchants are storefronts, there are some exceptions. Both Wave Cable and the Port Orchard Independent are participating, so a winner could use their prize to pay for a cable bill or newspaper subscription.

South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido is also a sponsor, which poses an interesting question on how she would redeem a prize. In fact, her participation doesn’t indicate she is up for sale. However, she will initial any card that is presented to her, and this will count as one of the five stamps.

The cards are available at any one of the sponsors, along with a list of those participating. The list isn’t entirely complete, as some businesses have closed and others have joined the program.

New lists will be printed by the second year’s kickoff, scheduled for May 1 and held in conjunction with the Scott McLendon’s Hardware annual pancake breakfast.

“I’m optimistic about this,” Johnson said. “Although I would like to see the merchants be more aggressive about telling people that it is available.”

A video produced by the chamber in support of this program that was shown on local cable systems is attached to this story.

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