Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

How gift certificates can help (a little) to support local businesses

By David Levine

Business closes due to economic impact of COVID-19 Social isolation is useful for fighting COVID-19. But it is devastating for hundreds of thousands of small businesses. Hairdressers, restaurant owners, and millions of other employees and owners have no work as vast portions of the nation shelter in place.

Many of these businesses could benefit by selling gift certificates today. The revenue will permit the businesses to pay rent and other essential bills. Then, when their businesses are open again, their revenue will be a bit lower as consumers redeem the certificates.

For consumers, buying a gift certificate is a means to support their hairdresser, nail salon, restaurant or other local service. At the same time, if a business goes under the consumer would have donated to a local business owner during their time of need.

Any small business can start generating revenue now by emailing clients and selling certificates via Venmo or PayPal. The merchant would have to track certificate redemptions carefully.

Alternatively, any small business can set up an account with a service such as kabbage.com. https://www.kabbage.com/helpsmallbusiness They have no fees (but keep 10% of unredeemed certificates).

Gift certificates will not overcome the massive economic dislocation caused by COVID-19. At the same time, every bit helps local businesses struggling to survive.