Buyers snap up small-business shopping cards

Big-box stores weren’t the only places where shoppers seeking deals were willing to wait in line on Black Friday.

A crowd queued up in downtown Glenwood Springs on Friday morning as people hoped to be among the 200 to receive free, $25 gift cards as part of the American Express Small Business Saturday campaign.

“They were gone in 15 minutes,” said Elaine Benson, a visitor information specialist at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. “It was very successful. There were people lined up down the block.”

The chamber’s president and chief executive officer, Marianne Virgili, said her organization was one of 100 nationwide that applied and were selected by American Express to distribute the cards. They’re intended for use today, which American Express is promoting as a day to shop at smaller, independently owned merchants.

“It’s just a great campaign to get people to shop at small businesses all over the country and we’re trying to parlay it into a shop-local campaign,” Virgili said.

She said she figured Friday’s giveaway would be popular, judging by the number of phone calls she got early in the morning from people wanting to know what time they should be at the chamber.

“We’re just delighted to dump $5,000 into the local economy and kick off the holiday season,” she said.

Glenwood Springs resident Chris Treese said he inadvertently arrived with his grown daughter, Sarah, an hour early at the chamber Friday, thinking it opened at 8 a.m. They were among maybe the first 50 to get cards once the giveaway started at 9, he said.

“It was certainly a wonderful opportunity that I guess American Express made to the community,” Treese said.

Ryan Fulton, assistant manager of Summit Canyon Mountaineering, said he got to his store around 8:20 a.m. and there already was a big line outside the chamber.

“Quite a few people came into the store afterward,” he said.

American Express also enables its credit-card holders to get a $25 credit for buying at qualifying stores on Small Business Saturday. Fulton said his store had some people come in last year as a result, and appreciates Friday’s giveaway.

“I think it will have a good impact,” he said.

American Express also gave the chamber welcome mats to distribute to retailers as part of the program, and promotional tote bags for shoppers.

Sue Sharpe, owner of Confetti Design, a downtown Glenwood Springs clothing store, said she’s had several visitors to the store who have talked about the American Express program.

“I think it’s great,” she said.


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