Shop Newark incentivizes support of small businesses

It’s pretty simple: spend some cash at a participating Newark business and get money back in the form of a rebate. Newark is the latest and largest New Jersey city to roll out a shop local program to incentivize homeowners, workers or anyone visiting to support small businesses.

“That particular amount that you’re receiving, a rebate or discount on, will go into an account for you, specifically for you, and at the end of August you’ll either receive a credit on your property tax, if you’re a property owner, obviously,” said Karen Brown Stovell, executive director of Forward Ever Sustainable Business Alliance.

For everyone else, it’ll be a check in the mail. If you spend $20 at a retailer offering 10 percent back, that’s $2 in your pocket.

“We’re just asking residents to keep on doing what they’re doing, local shop,” said Joe DeFalco of FinCredit. “If you have to do your hair style and the hair salon accepts Shop Newark, just go there.”

So that mac and cheese bowl could end up shaving money off your annual property tax bill. The program is in 24 other towns, earning shoppers an average of $300 to $400 a year in rebates. The more you spend, the more you save.

“The entire goal of the program is to help drive foot traffic, to help get all of these consumers that are in this city inside of these outlets. So, as much as the city is growing and undergoing this renaissance, for us, it’s equally important that small businesses grow as well,” said Newark Community Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Aisha Glover.

“I can’t survive without local commitment — to be my consumer, to be my customer, to be my loyal customer, it’s a no-brainer. This is what businesses and communities must do. We must collaborate to help each other,” said Michael Van, founder and CEO of Urban Acres Dining Incubator.

Newark is looking to get 100 businesses on board. In return, they’ll be promoted as part of a robust citywide marketing campaign.

“If we give incentives to at least 1,000 people to join the program and shift 1,500 to spend, over three years we can infuse $6 million back into the economy,” said Stovell.

“I’d go to Whole Foods and I’ll bring food home, and I also shop during lunch time and get a lot of food and stuff from here, so I do so yes,” said customer Sharron Smith. “It would be an incentive and I would probably spend more money, because I already do it now.”

It won’t cost the city a dime. Prudential Financial and FinCredit will cover any associated costs. The announcement was unveiled at Smitty and Mo’s in Newark’s Gateway Center — a known thruway to the city.

“While we talk to everybody else to invest in the city of Newark, we have to get Newarkers to do the same,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

Expect another announcement in June, that’s when the city will unveil the full list of participating businesses, so shoppers can start cashing in on those rebates.