ChooseCBR business bank skatepark aaron gardner
The Bank Skatepark owner Aaron Gardner said the ChooseCBR discount voucher program is a “really good, smart idea” to encourage Canberrans to shop locally. Photo Denholm Samaras.

Just under a week out from launch, over 150 Canberra small businesses have registered for the ACT Government’s ChooseCBR discount voucher program.

The sentiment among many of the local businesses signed up is positive; they see the program as an effective way to promote shopping locally in the lead up to Christmas.

With a two-week trial commencing next Wednesday, 9 December, the voucher scheme is open to small businesses with an ACT shopfront operating in the retail, tourism and accommodation, arts and recreation, personal services and hospitality sectors who received JobKeeper this year.

Owner of The Bank Skatepark in Fyshwick, Aaron Gardner, told Canberra Weekly he thinks the scheme is a “really good, smart idea” to encourage Canberrans to shop locally.

“Previously people have just bought online because it’s easier; with this people can say we’re going to save money, we’re going to get the item straight away, and we’re supporting local,” he said.

“Once I get the money, I take my kids out to restaurants, I’ll shop local too and it’s going to circulate. It doesn’t just get spent once; it’s spent multiple times within the local economy.”

The Bank Skatepark owner Aaron Gardner

Mr Gardner said the timing of the trial scheme in the lead up to Christmas complements the shop component of his business well.

“We set ourselves up being an indoor skatepark for Christmas with our scooter sales … Having a big Christmas is pretty important,” he said.

The initial trial of the scheme will run with $500,000 worth of discounts in the form of five daily vouchers, each of which must be used at a different business.

For every $1 of government spending through ChooseCBR, businesses will benefit by between $4 and $6.

A week prior to launch, Minister for Business Tara Cheyne announced that over 15,000 Canberrans had registered for the program, which was music to the ears of Impact Comics owner, Mal Briggs.

“I think that’s terrific,” he said. “It’s a good sign people are preparing to or actively spending money in the community.”

Mr Briggs said he’s able to promote the scheme “with confidence” knowing he’s encouraging people to “not just shop with us, but with other Canberra businesses” too.

“To take an extra moment and double check whether they can get what they’re after from a local business is probably going to make a bit of a difference to stop that money leaching out of the community too,” he said.

Melissa Tuckwood of Mel’s Massage said the discounts offered by the voucher scheme might just be what’s required to prompt some customers to seek out a massage.

“For a lot of people there’s just been so much uncertainty this year and we always put ourselves last,” she said.

“If this is the incentive someone needs to tip them over the line for a bit of self-care, I think that’s wonderful.”

Frugii Desert Laboratory co-owner Ed Marshall said her business registered for ChooseCBR to “let people know we are here, who we are, and what we do”.

“We’re a small family business and the support of our customers has been astounding,” she said.

“We decided to join up with the voucher promotion to encourage more people to come and visit Frugii and see what we’re all about.”

Following the upcoming trial of ChooseCBR, ACT Government will evaluate the program with the possibility of a full rollout next year.

A list of participating businesses is available via the ChooseCBR directory.