‘Cleveland Shops’ hopes to help small businesses with new gift card program for the holidays


SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) — Shopping small is arguably more important this year than ever before with many businesses struggling under the weight of the pandemic and some anxiety among customers to venture into their stores.

It’s part of the reason why Annie Richman, the owner of Shaker Rocks, an indoor rock-climbing facility, created her own contact tracing database of customers.

“We are now able to see how long anyone is here and who they’re here with, how long they’ve had exposure,” said Richman.

Before you can step too far into the building you are directed to wash your hands with soap and water at the sink near the entrance. It’s just some of the many safety measures she has implemented to keep customers safe.

Shaker Rocks is a member of Cleveland Shops, an organization launched in October with 41 members. This week, the group started a gift card program where users can spend their gift card at any member store.

“It’s mostly a gift of fun, a gift of adventure, a gift of something to do with your entire family,” said Richman.

Other businesses independent of the Cleveland Shops program are also providing new customer shopping experiences in time for the holidays. Luster in Shaker Heights’ Van Aken District has candles, jewelry, art prints and other gift items just waiting for shoppers to purchase.

“We have a shoppable website, we do a lot of posting on social media with an opportunity to shop right from social media,” said Robin McCann. “We offer FaceTime shopping, we often direct message with people and we offer curbside.”

Starting in December, McCann said they will have private shopping appointments after hours so people can come in and have the store to themselves to shop.

“The fourth quarter and holiday sales are very important for us,” said McCann. “The challenging thing right now is we really just don’t know what to expect, especially with a stay-at-home advisory on top of everything else,” she said.

Online only retailer owner Kile Walton said he began Kileidoscope Clothing Company in 2012. The biggest challenge now is staying competitive.

“…Because of COVID everybody is shopping everywhere online, for you to stick out is something so hard that you have to be able to do,” said Walton.

Walton said making custom t-shirts for family reunions was a reliable part of his business, but it dwindled when families stopped gathering. Now he’s hoping holiday sales can help the company rebound.

“There are times where your Black Friday deal has to be better than everyone else. Everybody might do 20 percent you have to do 30, 35 percent just to drive traffic to your website.”

One of the many ways business owners are trying to stay ahead.

“It certainty has been a very challenging time,” said McCann. “We tease all the time we have to work five times as hard as we normally do.”

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