By SARAH BROTHERS | Downtown San Diego Partnership
Downtown residents are no strangers to the uphill battle being faced by the hospitality industry in their neighborhoods. They have watched as many of the familiar storefronts, venues and restaurants have temporarily closed, pivoted their services and innovated to continue operating.
The Downtown San Diego Partnership knows that it is those same coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and more that help give our neighborhoods their unique character and make Downtown San Diego an amazing place to live and visit. They are part of what drew so many people to call Downtown home in the first place and what will continue to bring us together safely as a community.
As the voice of Downtown, we have been in constant conversation with residents, stakeholders and businesses since the beginning of the year to hear what challenges they’re experiencing and what needs they’re seeing in their neighborhoods. The feedback we heard from residents and stakeholders as stay-at-home orders continued was clear. They wanted to help support the businesses in their neighborhood but weren’t sure of the best way to do so.
At a time where that kind of support from the community could mean a world of difference to help small businesses and others to stay open, the Downtown San Diego Partnership came up with a unique way for people to get involved. The Downtown Loyalty store was created to leverage philanthropic funding from corporate and personal donors to subsidize discounted digital gift cards to participating businesses. For each $25 a customer spent, they could get an additional $10 of philanthropic funding to spend at their Downtown favorites and the entire $35 went immediately to support their business of choice.
“It has been nothing short of remarkable to see the grit and dedication of Downtown’s business over the past several months. We know they’re doing everything they can to hang on, but we were certain we could find a way to match the generosity of our community with a creative idea to provide them some direct revenue alongside our other efforts to promote economic prosperity and cultural vitality in Downtown,” said Betsy Brennan, President & CEO of the Downtown Partnership. “The success of the Downtown Loyalty store thus far has been a testament to the level of support there is for these businesses in our community.”
The first sale of the Downtown Loyalty store launched in July and the second sale wrapped up in September. Each sale sold more than 600 gift cards in less than a week, contributing nearly $50,000 in direct economic impact to participating businesses.
“We had a feeling the store was going to be popular, but we were blown away by the community’s response during both sales,” said Alex Gutierrez, director of special districts for the Downtown Partnership and manager of the store project. “What has been especially rewarding is seeing some of these smaller businesses pivot into the digital world for the first time to participate and the opportunity we have had to help them explore opportunities to connect with new customers.”
The next sale of the Downtown Loyalty store is stepping up to support another part of the hospitality industry and give the gift we know is most in-demand this year, a vacation away from home! Stay tuned during the holiday season for updates on the staycation packages being designed especially for the Downtown Loyal. You can find updates at www.downtownsandiego.org/downtown-loyalty.
While the store is closed for now, there are still a lot of ways the Downtown community can support these businesses. You can order take-out for your next outdoor picnic, leave a positive review, try a new activity, or even reshare their social media content with your friends. Now is as good a time as any to check off “become a regular” from your bucket list and explore the neighborhoods so many of us know and love.
— Sarah Brothers is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Downtown San Diego Partnership.