Holiday Shopping in Fort Pays Off
The Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce recently held its annual Holiday Open House with a focus on shopping member retailers and market vendors, but it looked a little different this year. Instead of hayrides and strolling carolers, and a host of single-day festivities, chamber members spread the joy over twelve days, rewarding shoppers with daily drawings for chamber gift certificates and other give-aways. The promotion culminated in a drawing for the Giant Red Box Give-Away, consisting of gifts from 24 chamber members and valued at over $2,000. This year’s grand prize winner was Fort Atkinson resident Kathy Topel, whose drawing entry was chosen from RiverStone Event Center, located at 1905 Central Coast Lane in Fort Atkinson.
This year’s promotion invited shoppers to drop off receipts from local purchases as one form of the drawing entry. “Purchases weren’t required to participate in the drawing,” said chamber director Carrie Chisholm, “but our intent was to drive people to our local retailers, who count on the holidays for as much as 20% of their annual revenue.” As a result, the chamber collected over 300 receipts from 34 individual businesses, totaling nearly $8,000 in purchases. “We know that figure is low,” said Chisholm, “because some of the receipts did not have a total, so those aren’t included in the final figures.”
Technology played a vital role in this year’s promotion, also. Shoppers could drop off their actual receipts at the chamber, but they could also take a photo of their receipts and text them or email them to the chamber. About 40% of shoppers took advantage of these options, engaging a whole new group of people who had not previously participated.
The market portion of the Holiday Open House was downsized from previous years, with 23 vendors located at Blodgett Garden Center and Feather Your Nest, but traffic and sales were brisk at these locations. Badger Bank converted its popular hayrides with Santa to a North Pole Drive Through, where kids could send their letters through the teller shoot to Santa, waiting on the other side to greet families from a safe distance.
“We continue to be inspired by our members’ creativity and humanity during this difficult time,” said Chisholm. “It was fun to be part of spreading a little Christmas cheer while encouraging people to focus on helping our local business community.” Chisholm noted that in spite of COVID-related challenges, chamber retailers still wanted to participate in giving back. “We’ll be presenting a check to the Fort Atkinson Food Pantry as part of our Merchants Making a Difference campaign, in which retailers donate a portion of their holiday sales to benefit a local non-profit.” This program has been part of the chamber’s holiday promotion since 2004, and over $30,000 has been given in support of area charities.