Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 5:06 PM on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shopping derby fun way to promote doing business in Homer

The Homer Shopping Derby being rolled out by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center is one of those proverbial win-win events. It's an incentive for residents who might go elsewhere to shop in town, it's a draw for residents of neighboring communities to come to Homer and shop and it's encouragement for visitors to explore our community's many unique businesses. The derby gives participating shoppers a chance to win $5,000 — not a bad reward just for choosing to shop in Homer.

Kudos to the chamber for keeping the derby rules simple.

Shoppers buy a $10 card from participating merchants. Just for purchasing a ticket, a shopper has a chance to win $5,000. Every time they spend from $1-$100 at a participating merchant, they get a stamp for their card. Each card has room for four stamps and, when filled, the ticket is turned in for a second chance to win the $5,000. Businesses pay $100 to participate; the chamber provides promotional materials and support for that fee. Merchants get $1 for every $10 card they sell. The inaugural derby will run from May 1 through Labor Day weekend, with the drawing to be held near the end of September.

The derby brings to mind a successful "shop local" campaign promoted by the city of Soldotna and the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. Its theme: Get into Your Neighbor's Business.

It's a catchy, funny slogan that really sums up the intent of the Homer Shopping Derby as well. When we do business with our neighbors, it helps the local economy. When the local economy fares well, we all do better. The simple truth is none of us can prosper apart from the economic health and growth of our community — and that happens when we do business with our neighbors.

Small businesses are the backbone not only of the local economy, but the national economy. Collectively, small businesses employ more people than do large corporations. That means when we purchase products and services from small businesses — like those in Homer — we oil the economic engine of job growth. In fact, supporting businesses in our community may be the single best thing we can do to improve the financial outlook for all of us.

The Homer Shopping Derby is a great reminder that shopping locally is not a hardship. Apart from the chance to win $5,000, there are plenty of good reasons to shop in Homer. First, there's a good chance that the item we didn't think was available locally is. Second, it's possible the item isn't more expensive here than it is elsewhere. Third, if it is more expensive, there very well could be a local merchant willing to match that lower price. Fourth, it's likely businesses on the southern peninsula will show their appreciation when their neighbors do business with them. Fifth, it saves time and the expense of driving elsewhere when we shop in our own community.

The Homer Shopping Derby has another plus side: strengthening the ties between local businesses. As Karin Marks, owner of the Art Shop Gallery and member of the shopping derby task force put it: "We need to constantly have something that brings us all together. We're all in this economy together."

For more on the Homer Shopping Derby, see page 1 of this week's Real Estate & Business section.