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Downtown gift cards turn 1-year-old

BY BRADY TRYTTEN | SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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After a year of starting the Iowa City Downtown District gift-card program, downtown officials said they have seen an increase in participation.

Betsy Potter, the Downtown District operations director, said the gift-card program has grown.

“Businesses started to promote it, and that caught the interests of other businesses,” Potter said. “That made them want to jump on board as well.”

Downtown District Director Nancy Bird said people have bought $35,000 worth of gift cards.

Sales are continuing to climb, she said, but when it first started in 2013, the program had a slow start.

“It just took time for people to find out about the deal,” Bird said. “We’ve moved from 40 to 50 to 60 businesses, and now we’re over 100 businesses that accept gift cards.”

Potter said the plan was designed around having a gift-card program for use in downtown businesses.

“The reason we started is because there used to be a community gift card that could be used in the surrounding area, but when that went away, we started to look for something to take its place,” Potter said.

Bird said she thinks part of the increase came from conferences that are held in Iowa City.

“If we have a conference and people are staying at a hotel, they can buy a gift card to see and experience the downtown Iowa City area,” she said.

Potter said the gift cards are also being purchased for families who come to visit their children or relatives in Iowa City.

“There have been a lot of cards bought from out-of-state,” she said. “People buy them and give them to their families for when they come to visit. It’s a good gift for out-of-state people who don’t know the downtown Iowa City area.”

Bird said Active Endeavors, 138 S. Clinton St., has been with the program since the beginning.
Active Endeavors manager Dave Nerad said having the cards has been beneficial for business.

“We see them a lot, and it’s been great,” he said. “It gets people [into] the downtown area more. It’s another avenue to get people in the store and to buy our product.”

Drew McLaughlin, the manager of the Bread Garden Market, 225 S. Linn St., said he thinks the cards are helpful for the district as well.

“It makes people want to shop local more,” he said. “It keeps things local and promotes the downtown area.”


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