A digital gift card program that doubles the purchasing power for customers has been offered exclusively to downtown Ceres merchants. But with additional funding available, the program is being expanded this week to include businesses citywide.
The only catch is that the program will not be extended to any national chains, including fast-food franchises and national chain stores like Walmart. Only Ceres businesses that are locally owned and operated and not a national franchise type business can participate.
In November the city announced the RAD (Relief Across Downtown) Card program designed to give consumers more purchasing power in downtown Ceres while helping merchants struggling with the loss of business due to the government shutdown of the many mom and pop stores while the national chains remained open.
The city of Ceres was allocated $200,000 in funding by federal CARES Act through the county and three months into the program only $11,493 worth of RAD purchases has been made. Initially the county stipulated that RAD be limited to eligible businesses in downtown areas since it was designed to provide “relief across downtown” following Modesto’s successful program in the summer of 2020.
While the program has been very successful in Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale, Newman and Hughson – which have utilized all of the county’s allocated funds – Ceres and the four remaining cities and county have experienced much lower participation.
Three months into the program, the flagging response has disappointed Ceres city officials who are now determined to open up the reach.
The city has reached out to 36 downtown merchants but only five registered for the program: Ceres Drugs, Sam’s Café, Flawless Hair Salon, Alfonso’s, and Meyer CPR & First Aid.
“We’re pretty disappointed with the results of the RAD Card that relief across downtown that was such a success in Turlock, Oakdale and Modesto,” said Steve Hallam, the city’s Economic Development manager. He fears if the money isn’t used in Ceres that it will go to benefit residents in the other cities.
The county’s allowing of the change “means that many more of Ceres small retailers, restaurants, and personal service providers have the opportunity to increase their customers spending power at their business,” said Hallam.
“I think that will get a lot more interest from other businesses in Ceres signing up to participate in the RAD program.”
“I think it’s something very beneficial to our downtown merchants,” said Steve Hallam, the city’s Economic Development manager.
The RAD Card program involves the use of a mobile phone app whereby a customer can use a QR code that can be used to buy merchandise or services at participating downtown Ceres businesses. A customer who buys denominations of $25, $50, $75 or $100 through the RAD app, will have it doubled at the store. The most one person can spend is $200. The added value comes from federal CARE Act funds that were allocated to Stanislaus County.
The merchant has to agree to participate. The QR code is scanned, the merchant enters the amount of the purchase and uploads a photo of the receipt. The merchant is then reimbursed funding within seven days.
Hallam said he encourages all Ceres residents to download the RAD card app on any Apple or Android device; and then register an account and purchase the amounts listed and then enjoy a doubling of those funds dollar for dollar.
Consumers should ask downtown merchants if they participate in the program, and if not, encourage them to do so.
Business owners/operators wishing to participate in the RAD Card Program should contact the Ceres Economic Development Department at 538-5756 (leaving a message if necessary); or email to Hallam at email@example.com. Business nominations will be confirmed within 24 hours.
After a quick review by the city to determine eligibility, the nominated business will be notified and, if approved, they will be given an okay to register on the RAD App as an eligible business.