By Anna Lothson
Don't crumple up or toss out those receipts when you shop in Downtown Oak Park this holiday season.
Shopping local can pay off for people participating in the business district's annual DTOP Shopper Reward rebate program. Saving receipts and following a few guidelines is all it takes.
Those spending money at downtown shops may be eligible for a $50 gift certificate to those businesses if the shopper brings in original receipts from at least seven different stores, at least $25 per store, with a total amount of $400. Participating businesses include both restaurants and retail. A full list can be reviewed at downtownoakpark.net. Shoppers can pick up their Shopper's Reward envelopes at participating DTOP businesses.
DTOP Marketing Director Shannon Williams said the organization has seen steady growth of roughly 30 percent each year for the last several years. The program, which runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, has been in existence for about 15 years.
"It's word of mouth more than anything," she said, "and the ease of the program. It's such an easy program to earn $50."
Williams said possible changes were discussed a few years back, but the group decided to keep with a system that seemed to be working. The most significant increases have occurred the past four years.
"People who do it are loyal to the program. … They wait for it," she said. The merchants promoting the program also contribute to its success.
The campaign push to "shop local" has grown elsewhere, but the trend has been particularly strong in Oak Park. Having a lot of locally-owned, small shops helps add to the cause, she said.
The national movement to "shop small" is also growing and continues this year. Nov. 30 is Small Business Saturday, a nationwide campaign designed to remind people to shop at locally-owned businesses. But Oak Parkers may not need much reminding.
"I think this community loves to support their locals and their independents," Williams said. "[DTOP's program] is a way to get rewarded for shopping local."
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