By Arnold Adler
BELLFLOWER — The city will sponsor the sale of personalized gift cards that can be redeemed only at local merchants and service providers, under a plan approved by the City Council Sept. 14.
Council members approved an agreement with Giftbar, a private firm, to set up and operate an online market place where cards will be available to all residents. The cost of the service would be $175 per month, equaling $2,100 per year.
There would be no cost to the participating business, which could be a retail operation, a restaurant or a service business such as a barbershop or hair and nail salon.
The plan is to help local merchants generate revenue during these difficult COVID-19 times and could bring in customers from outside the city, said Jim DellaLonga, director of community development.
DellaLonga told a reporter the city hopes that residents will help local merchants by purchasing the cards for personal use or by sending them as gifts to friends and relatives outside the city.
Buyers could personalize the cards with their names or comments and send them to others, he added.
As a special incentive, the council allocated $10,000 to provide a “bonus” to buyers by increasing the value of the card. That cost would be recovered from money from a marijuana education fund made up of fees on those with permits to operate a marijuana-related businesses in Bellflower.
The purchaser of a $20 gift card would get a $5 bonus, making it a $25 gift card. The purchase of a $40 gift card will get a $10 bonus, making it a $50 gift card, DellaLonga said.
“The gift card bonus portion of the program will be available until the funds for the bonuses are exhausted.
The expense would be justified by adding a message to the card warning of the dangerous of improper drug use, he said.
In a written report to the council, DellaLong proposed creating a community economic recovery gift card program and assigning a portion of the collected cannabis fees to this program to disseminate anti-drug messages and fund gift card added-value bonuses.
“Cities, chambers and business associations nationwide have implemented community-specific digital gift card programs to promote and support local small businesses. These programs take various forms depending on the sponsoring entity and the funding available.
“In staff’s efforts to find creative ways to support the Bellflower community during the pandemic, a Bellflower specific gift card program appeared to be a great idea to spur local spending. For this program, staff is recommending the city work with Giftbar to create a Bellflower specific merchant portal and marketplace where people can purchase merchant gift cards.
“Additionally, staff is recommending the City Council assign $10,000 from the Cannabis Drug Education/Rehabilitation Fund to the program to include anti-drug messages on the merchant portal and digital gift cards, and fund gift card bonuses
“Economic Development staff continues to look for creative ways to support the business community in Bellflower,” DellaLonga said, “to fulfill the City Council’s commitment to educate the community regarding drug abuse.
Giftbar will generate revenue from the sale of the customized or personalized digital gift cards at $2.95 per card as well as 3% of the face value of the card, which is deducted from the merchants’ revenue, DellaLonga said.
He said the city’s Economic Development staff will also seek to partner with the Bellflower Chamber of Commerce to promote the program to the business community to increase participation and will seek contributions from some of the larger businesses in the community to add to the bonus fund in an effort to keep that benefit going as long as possible.
“To date, staff has inquired with several downtown Bellflower merchants and all are willing to participate in the program, once it is operational,” DellaLonga said in his report.