Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 6:28 PM on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Homer Shopping Derby offers participants chance to win $5,000

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Homer News file photo

Cruise ship passengers shop in downtown Homer in May 2008. The Homer Chamber of Commerce is launching a shopping derby May 1 with a grand prize of $5,000.

Taking a tip from the long-running Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, Homer merchants have designed a dry-land derby of their own: the Homer Shopping Derby.

This first-time event, sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, kicks off May 1 in conjunction with the 20th annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival and continues through Labor Day weekend. An end-of-the-season $5,000 prize is awaiting some lucky shopper, be they visitor or local.

"We were just brainstorming, trying, first, to figure out how to raise some money for the chamber and to have an activity that everyone participates in," said Don Cotogno, owner of Timber Bay B&B and a member of the shopping derby task force. "And, second, a lot of people that come up (to Homer) don't fish, so what can we do for them?"

Homer Shopping Derby rules are simple:

• Shoppers buy $10 tickets at participating businesses;

• For purchasing a ticket, the ticket holder has one chance to win;

• Shoppers get participating merchants to stamp the shoppers' tickets once for each time they spend between $1 and $100;

• Each ticket has room for four stamps and, when filled, the ticket is turned in for a second chance to win the $5,000;

• Participating merchants keep $1 for every ticket sold.

Shoppers can purchase an unlimited number of tickets.

"All the tickets have to be turned in to the chamber by Sept. 15," said Cotogno. "Then a week or two after that, after we get everything together, we'll have the raffle for the $5,000 prize."

To participate, merchants must be chamber members and pay $100 to be in the program.

"That covers the price of the stamps, which we supply, plus advertising, a sticker for their window saying they're participating, and any printed materials," said Cotogno.

A handout for derby shoppers will include a list of participating businesses. Tickets and a self-inking ticket stamp also will be provided by the chamber.

As far as Cotogno knows, this is a one-of-a-kind derby.

"We checked around and this was the first we could find," he said, adding that the response to date from local merchants has been "very positive."

The goal is to have 50-60 diverse businesses sign up during the derby's first season.

"We want to make sure we have a good mix and locations along Pioneer Avenue, the Spit, in Old Town, everyplace," said Cotogno. "The worst thing we can do is have customers get frustrated that every place they go into says, 'We don't participate.' We want people to go away with smiles on their faces."

Karin Marks, owner of Art Shop Gallery and a member of the task force, sees the shopping derby as beneficial on several levels.

"First of all, the Homer community has a lot of different kinds of businesses and after years of saying charters were the place to go, the thing to do, we are trying to look at other avenues to market so people have reasons to come to Homer besides fishing," said Marks. "This is a fun way of doing something on a day that you won't want to go hiking or fishing, or your buddy is fishing and you want to do something else. It gets you out and about with an opportunity to win a prize just like fishing."

Another selling point for the shopping derby is that it provides an additional revenue source for the chamber "which is looking at doing more marketing. I think it's terribly crucial that people realize you have to be proactive in the world of marketing. ... It gives us all a better chance of enticing people to come over Baycrest."

Jenny Stroyek, a task force member and partner in the Homer Bookstore, agreed.

"Mostly, I think it's about raising awareness that we have a lot of unique, individual businesses, and encourage (shoppers) to go to more businesses than they might have wanted to on their own," said Stroyek.

And not just shoppers from out of town.

"It's a good way to benefit the year-round retail businesses here in town, both from a tourist standpoint, as well as the standpoint of residents. It gets them shopping local again," said Julie Parizek, owner of Cranes Rest B&B.

The May-September timeframe is a way to test the water of this new derby.

"We wanted to not bite off more than we could chew," said Marks. "This way, if we have a limit to it, we can see if it works, if there need to be adjustments. Who knows where this might go."

In addition, Marks sees the shopping derby as a way to strengthen ties between local businesses. "We need to constantly have something that brings us all together," said Marks. "We're all in this economy together."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.