Editorial – Rewards program gives merchants a needed boost

Published 6:01 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Downtown Smithfield’s vibrant retail and hospitality scene is easy to take for granted, especially for those who don’t remember its revitalization three decades ago.

Our hometown merchants, who miraculously weathered COVID-related restrictions a few years back, need your support more than ever as one-way traffic on the Cypress Creek Bridge continues to deter shoppers, with more than a year remaining until that vital artery to the Historic District returns to normal functionality.

Isle of Wight County’s economic development team, with seed funding from the county’s Economic Development Authority, is doing its part to help soften the blow.

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A recently launched customer rewards program offers money back to consumers for spending at businesses in the first six blocks of Main Street, the 100 block of North Church Street and the 400 to 1900 blocks of South Church Street.

Neither businesses nor consumers pay anything for the program, which launched with a $5,000 contribution from the EDA. The level of participation will determine whether the program makes it past the pilot stage. According to Nicole Talton, Isle of Wight’s energetic economic development coordinator, who is spearheading the program, the early results are encouraging.

As of July 9, 218 people had registered to use the Open Rewards app and 124 eligible businesses had been identified. More participation is needed. 

Here’s how to participate:

  • Download the free Open Rewards app to your smartphone in the Apple or Google stores.
  • Scan and submit receipts from purchases at participating businesses. 
  • Get 5% of each transaction (maximum reward of $10) to redeem through purchases at any of the participating businesses. 

There’s no limit on the number of rewards, nor on the amount you can redeem. So if you earn a $5 reward on one purchase, you can spend that $5 on your next purchase at that business or a purchase at any other participating business. Rewards do expire in 90 days, so spend quickly and often to achieve the full value.

“We would like to reach more users, inside and outside of Smithfield, and encourage them to shop, dine and use services provided by the eligible businesses,” Talton said. “I’d be glad to talk with or show eligible businesses or consumers how the program works.” 

Talton can be reached at 757-365-6251 or ntalton@iwus.net

Open Rewards is one in a series of initiatives to help merchants during the bridge closure. Smithfield-Isle of Wight Tourism this spring erected signs encouraging consumers to navigate around the bridge project and be intentional about supporting local businesses during a trying time for all.