New gift card program coming to Puslinch businesses

PUSLINCH – Township council has approved a new gift certificate program for local businesses here.

Puslinch is the third municipality in Wellington County, along with Centre Wellington and Minto, to enlist Osim Interactive’s services to develop a specialized website to sell gift certificates for local businesses and service clubs, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 17, council gave township staff the go-ahead to start working on the website with Osim Interactive, a Harriston-based company.

In Centre Wellington and Minto, Osim was asked to find ways to help the community and businesses throughout the COVID-19 lockdown.

“One of the ways we came up with was that it’s hard to go into all the small stores and how can you give so one of the ways was to set up a gift certificate program,” said Osim representative Glenn Hall.

“We work with Shopify, as a Shopify partner, to be able to help set this up for both of those communities.”

The online platform allows anyone to go to one website and purchase gift cards to their favourite stores and even memberships to some service clubs, without having to set foot in an actual business.

“(It’s) focused on the retail and service businesses,” Hall said.

For small businesses, “a $500 set of gift certificates in a month might actually make a big difference at this time, maybe they’re working on limited income.

“A little boost gives them both the feeling that there’s people out there that do care and want to see them open and are willing to basically buy gift certificates where they may not be able to use them until the business reopens.”

It also allows businesses that do not have gift card programs to benefit from online sales.

“The ordering process is really, really simple,” Hall said.

“It offers $25, $50 and $100 options and if you wanted to combine any combination of those you could for one business or you could buy for multiple business on a single check out.

“And it’s just a great way to help businesses keep going at this time.”

Once the website is developed and set up, the Township of Puslinch will own the domain name and be responsible to applicable fees.

The service costs $1,000 for Osim to set up, $35 per year for the domain name (the first year is covered by the Osim fee) and then about $500 per year for a Shopify subscription.

“I see this money as being an investment and a sign of support to our local business and business owners, many of whom are also residents,” said councillor Jessica Goyda, a champion in getting the initiative in place for the township.

“I think it’s just another channel of exposure because a lot of them don’t have their own gift card programs or even website presence, and I think Puslinch is a very proud community that wants to help one another and I think that this is just a really great one-stop-shop way for them to do that.”

Puslinch CAO Glenn Schwendinger explained that while Puslinch would be funding the program, Wellington Waterloo Community Futures had agreed to administer the program.

“It does not take long to manage,” Hall said.

“From the other two communities we’ve talked to, they suggested about an hour to an hour and a half a week in time to be able to process transactions.

“And really the way they do it, the order gets placed, the administrative person then e-transfers the payments to the business.

“It works really smooth and that’s really where most of the time is, just doing the book keeping and sending the money off to the individual businesses to make sure they have money in their accounts.”

In addition to the township monetary responsibilities, fees of 2.7% plus 30 cents per purchase will be charged under the built-in Shopify payment system. The fee will be automatically deducted before the funds are deposited in the administrator’s bank account.

One of the questions council raised was how best to market the initiative to both businesses and residents.

“What I’ve heard from other municipalities … is once a few get involved then it kind of builds on that, it builds some momentum and other people hear about it and other businesses join after that, which is all a very good thing,” Schwendinger said.

Mayor James Seeley said Wellington County announced in a mayor’s call on June 17 that $30,000 would be made available for member municipalities to develop economic development programs.

“So that’s definitely something we’d be looking at the county to help support us with,” he said.

Councillor Matthew Bulmer wanted to ensure the township would not get into a bonusing situation by funding the program.

“I don’t think you have any concerns with regards to bonusing because … we’re just functioning as a conduit to help facilitate the financial exchange between people who buy the certificates and the businesses themselves,” Schwendinger said.

“It’s not municipal money that’s transferring hands other than to set up that method of conveyance. So I don’t think you have any concern about that.”

Council has decided to move ahead with the implementation of the gift certificate program through Osim Interactive.

Staff will bring back a report with potential funding options.