This weekend, Shop Seward
Another Kenai Peninsula city is putting thousands toward a shop local incentive program.
Seward is following Kenai and Soldotna with “Shop Seward,” which will run this upcoming holiday weekend.
Here’s how it works: Shoppers can spend $200 or more at participating Seward businesses on discretionary items.
“Like coffee, jewelry, lodging for the night, if you’re coming from out of town and want to rent a hotel room," said Kat Sorensen, director of communications for the Seward Chamber of Commerce.
“Or if you just want to shop online, you can do that as well.”
Turn in your receipts to get four $25 vouchers to participating businesses of your choosing. If you can’t spend them all, you can donate your vouchers to Seward nonprofits.
Sorensen said her office reached out to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce to get the program running. Soldotna’s shop local campaign was so successful that the city ultimately doubled the funds it provided for the program. The city of Kenai opened its own version last week and set aside $335,000 for it.
Haines, which had the first program of this kind in Alaska, opened up a second round when funds from the first ran out last year.
The city of Seward set aside over $30,000 of its CARES Act funds for Shop Seward.
The program’s launching just a week after Canada banned cruise ships for the second year in a row.
That’s a problem for Alaska cruise ship hubs like Seward because foreign-flagged ships are required to stop in Canada before docking at U.S. ports, per a century-old maritime law. Alaska’s congressional delegation is trying to find a work around for the rule. But as it is now, the order would shut down the state’s 2021 cruise season.
A lot of Seward’s summer tourism comes from cruise travelers. Sorensen hopes tourists who plan on getting to the peninsula by other means can use the Shop Seward program to get ahead on their trip planning.
“So, say you’re planning a vacation in June or July and you need a hotel room," she said. "You can get a gift card, book that hotel room and then still receive those vouchers. So, in light of the cruise ship announcement and all of that uncertainty for this summer, we’re excited to be able to give an opportunity for independent travelers to kind of plan their trip and get excited about this summer from in state and out of state, if it’s safe.”
Shoppers have to use their vouchers by March 31 but they can redeem them from gift cards when possible.
Several hotels and charter companies are included on the list of 25 eligible businesses — and counting — on the Seward Chamber site. Visit seward.com/shopseward for that complete list and to submit receipts. The program runs Feb. 11 to Feb. 16.
Meanwhile, Kenai’s own program is entering its second week. And some businesses are getting creative with their own incentives on top of the vouchers.
Catie Cox owns Mabel’s clothing store on the Kenai Spur. She has a list of the participating businesses on the counter in her store.
“We do have sales and giveaways and stuff throughout the year, we just decided to do a spring basket giveaway that is valued at $100, or at least $100, at the same time as the shop small [program]," she said.
It’s still early, but Cox said customers have been excited about the chance to participate in the program.
Kenai shoppers can redeem receipts until April 1 for that program. For a list of participating businesses, visit kenaichamber.org.