ChooseCBR vouchers extended but business leader labels them lip service

Michael Weaver 18 December 2020 29
Tom Adam

President of the Phillip Business Community Tom Adam. Photo: Michael Weaver.

After a lukewarm response to the ACT Government’s ChooseCBR discount vouchers, the program has been extended by three days but a local business leader has said they pay lip service to businesses who need the biggest economic boost.

The ChooseCBR program was due to finish at 11:59 pm tonight (21 December), but the trial will now conclude at 11:59 pm on Christmas Eve (24 December).

The $500,000 ACT Government initiative went live on 9 December and had 302 businesses register in the first week. However, only about $65,000 worth of vouchers were downloaded in the first five days, which rose slightly to $80,000 as of 15 December.

As of last Friday (18 December), more than 40,000 people had signed up to use the vouchers at 313 participating businesses but less than half of the $500,000 vouchers had been claimed.


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Despite the initial interest, the head of the Phillip Business Community, Tom Adam, said he was not surprised to see the lukewarm response.

He said the ACT Government had rushed the scheme out ahead of Christmas and it would do little to help businesses struggling to meet interest repayments on short-term loans to keep afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve promoted the scheme to my mailing list and via social media but the take up of the vouchers have all been through existing customers,” he said.

“It’s like a free credit card for some of the customers.”

Mr Adam said he has spoken with many other businesses in the Phillip community who had simply given up on the registration process because they found it too time-consuming when they were already busy trying to make the most of the Christmas period.

“Because of the lack of advertising from the ACT Government on the scheme, there’s no social promotion. There are no boosted ads that I’ve seen on social media, so there’s a lot of stuff they’re not taking on board in terms of how you market a business and how I market my business.

“I’m looking forward to talking with the business minister more about this,” he said.

Wildflour in Fyshwick

Cafes such as Wildflour in Fyshwick are benefitting from the ChooseCBR vouchers scheme but many businesses are missing out. Photo: Michelle Rowe.

Minister for Business and Regulation Tara Cheyne defended the scheme, saying it is proving to be a great economic boost for business and was being extended in response to feedback from the community.

“The ChooseCBR trial is having an impact on our local economy. For every $1 of discount claimed, about $6.20 is being injected into the economy. This is fantastic for local businesses and local jobs after the tough year we’ve had,” Ms Cheyne said.

“I’ve been listening to the feedback over the past few days and seeing the numbers of Canberrans signing up increase.”

Following the trial, the program will be assessed with the government to consider ways to increase accessibility for business owners and customers before a proposed $2 million rollout in 2021.

Mr Adam, who runs a martial arts and fitness centre in Phillip, said he hasn’t had any new customers from the ChooseCBR vouchers and had also approached a number of businesses to provide a case study of the scheme but they were fearful of retribution from landlords who are also feeling the pinch from banks.

“I said to the business minister [Tara Cheyne] last week that they need to be emailing businesses who have registered every day and sending them flyers, like they did with the health restrictions notices I’ve got on my window.

“If people are buying an extra cupcake, that’s great, but what about the businesses that really need the extra income?”


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Ms Cheyne said the ACT Government had also compiled a webpage via artsACT that encouraged people to support the local arts scene and buy a one-of-a-kind gift, crafted by locals.

However, Margaret Hadfield who runs the Artists’ Shed in Fyshwick said she was also not aware of the new artsACT webpage, and she was very upset at not being able to register for the ChooseCBR vouchers.

“I feel like artists like myself and others have been left on the periphery after doing our best to survive the COVID restrictions,” Ms Hadfield told Region Media.

“I wasn’t able to get beyond the first stage of registering for the vouchers because it said you should have been a receiver of JobKeeper of JobSeeker. We’re a business earning under $100,000 if we’re lucky, so we were eliminated from the process on account of that.

“I feel like we’re being overlooked because this is what I love to do and I was really upset at not being able to register the business for the vouchers.”


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29 Responses to ChooseCBR vouchers extended but business leader labels them lip service
bj_ACT bj_ACT 3:44 pm 22 Dec 20

The $6.20 economic boost per ACT government dollar that the Minister promotes, must be the dodgiest economic claim since Ronald Reagan’s trickle down economics.

Based on this measure the ACT government should instead only give $1 per $100 dollars spent and then they would be able to claim they are providing a 10,000% economic boost.

Which spin doctor came up with the maths for this audacious way to claim success for the program?

Chris Emery Chris Emery 6:55 pm 21 Dec 20

The managed to send out emails that Apple Mail sent straight to Junk.

kiwi66 kiwi66 9:12 pm 20 Dec 20

It would be great if the scheme were to be extended to after Christmas – as a retail worker I simply don’t have time/ headspace to go shopping to utilise the vouchers. In addition, it would help boost sales during the quieter after-Christmas time when people aren’t present shopping…

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:22 pm 20 Dec 20

Why wasn’t a printed voucher mailed out to every ratepayer with the rate notices?

That way everyone including the IT challenged among us could share in the spirit of this novelty?

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:10 pm 20 Dec 20

A six to one (or better) return sounds very optimistic, indeed, for these types of consumer spending. Some of the spending associated with the vouchers is surely bring forward, or displacement (which would see non-participating businesses end up worse off than they would have been without a voucher scheme).

Whatever the reality, though, a considerably scaled-up and more effective scheme along these lines will be important when the federal government fiscal supports phase out next year. If the rumours of an early federal election prove true, there will be further challenges for businesses reliant on discretionary spending, given the tendency of Canberrans to become very coy about such spending during, and in the lead up to, federal election campaigns.

Drew Triebe Drew Triebe 4:42 pm 20 Dec 20

I went to sign up for these vouchers but it said I had to consent to marketing and my details would be passed onto other partners.
I didn’t want to be spammed or sent to however many businesses so I cancelled out.

Samantha Fooks Samantha Fooks 3:54 pm 20 Dec 20

As a registered business and also a participating consumer of the choose cbr program, I have found it to be great. Easy to use from both sides and it has brought in some new customers as well as increased the spend of some existing customers. Of course, like all new programs there are a few things that could be improved, but overall I am very grateful that the government put this in place

    Tara Cheyne Tara Cheyne 4:06 pm 20 Dec 20

    Samantha Fooks thanks so much Samantha 🙏 This is the first time we've done anything like this so we're still learning. Really appreciate your support and engagement as a business and as a consumer.

    Samantha Fooks Samantha Fooks 4:08 pm 20 Dec 20

    Tara Cheyne thanks Tara, you have done a fantastic job!

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 12:41 pm 20 Dec 20

I planned to spend but wasn’t well (not COVID). Didn’t want to spread any germs!

Robert Hawes Robert Hawes 12:23 pm 20 Dec 20

It will add nothing to the economy. Any money spent by the Government on this scheme is less money spent on other things. Any money spent by people would probably have been spent anyway.

    Damien Kell Damien Kell 12:49 pm 20 Dec 20

    Robert Hawes we got pizza from our local pizza shop that is part of this campaign on Friday. We would not have done it without the discount so I can confidently say that you are wrong!

    Robert Hawes Robert Hawes 2:38 pm 20 Dec 20

    Damien Kell What would you have done with the money otherwise? Spend it elsewhere? In which case I am right.

    Damien Kell Damien Kell 6:11 pm 20 Dec 20

    Robert Hawes we would have had a home cooked meal so there would have been some cost in groceries but a lot less than even the discounted cost we paid

    Adrienne Yeo Adrienne Yeo 9:17 am 23 Dec 20

    The scheme might've worked for people like yourself, who would not otherwise eat out. For many many other Canberrans who eat out almost all the time, this scheme simply displaces spending away from businesses not in the scheme, to those who are. So Robert is essentially correct, seeing the extent to which Canberrans already eat out.

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 11:18 am 20 Dec 20

Like any scheme, people will find a way. I had a week around home doing no longer avoidable last week but am planning a serious assault on the reserves this week.

Gay Robertson Gay Robertson 10:11 am 20 Dec 20

Unfortunately the scheme really benefits people who would already have spent the money & the kick-back is a bit of a bonus if they can be bothered to claim it. Many people with low income can't come up with the initial spend required to claim the voucher. If the vouchers aren't fully subscribed, there's been minimal benefit to the businesses the scheme was meant to benefit.

    Tara Cheyne Tara Cheyne 10:57 am 20 Dec 20

    Gay Robertson Hi Gay, the primary purpose of the scheme is to support local businesses and to boost economic spend. For every government dollar that's been claimed, $6.20 has been injected into the economy. That's actually beyond our expectation.

    The minimum spend is just $10 to get a 25 per cent discount. I know that some people are this time are just looking to spend on essentials - and that those essentials might be coming from the big providers that aren't eligible, like Coles or Woolies.

    Tom Adam Tom Adam 11:02 am 20 Dec 20

    Tara, thanks for the input. I’d love to see the numbers to see where the $6.2:1 is being generated, from anecdotal evidence a lot of people are using it to replace money they would have ordinarily spent - so is that figure including spending not connected to the scheme?

    Just curious.

    I’m also glad that my advocacy has been able to help raise the profile of the campaign here on the Riot Act, Win News and ABC news.

    Tara Cheyne Tara Cheyne 11:05 am 20 Dec 20

    Tom Adam We have the data of the total transaction in addition to the discount that's claimed. As you know, I really appreciate your advocacy and what you do to promote Phillip businesses and what you've done to help get more businesses on board. The more people talking about - and using - the scheme, the better. We've seen a strong uptake this weekend and looking forward to more strong figures today.

    Tom Adam Tom Adam 4:55 pm 20 Dec 20

    Tara, I’m curious to see whether people are making additional spending or - like my customers - just using it as a discount on their schedule memberships.

    Tara Cheyne Tara Cheyne 5:03 pm 20 Dec 20

    Tom Adam I think that's hard for us to calculate. It may also be dependent on the business product and how businesses are promoting it. One business told me that when someone comes in they ask what their budget is and if it's $100, they let them know about the discounts and that their budget could be $120 (because with the $20 discount they'd still be paying $100). That's an example that results in an extra spend, even if it's not a brand new customer. Others have reported that they've had people come in for the first time because they saw the business listed. Hopefully the map function assists with that a bit more, too.

    I'm not sure what products you're offering in addition to schedule memberships or what the price is for them or how you're going about trying to reach new customers so can't give an equivalent example. You could be advertising a discount on new membership with a ChooseCBR discount for someone looking to join/give it a go in 2021? Or letting people know that if they make use of a discount they could buy an extra piece of equipment? I might be totally off the mark but again I don't know your business intimately (but hope to get to know it better when I visit in 2021!).

    Tom Adam Tom Adam 5:07 pm 20 Dec 20

    Tara, so how does that add up to $6.20:1 if someone is spending an additional $20 that’s 1:6.

    I think there needs to be more transparency on the modelling to back up the claim.

    Like I can say that we have an average of 89% of our memberships attends at least 1 classes per month - and then show data over the past 3 months to back it up.

    Nick James Nick James 5:10 pm 20 Dec 20

    Tom Adam some people might be renewing memberships who otherwise would have cancelled. I think it's a good first go at a program. The NSW system is a bit restrictive, to restaurants only etc, so the scope of the ACT one is better. In my business we're seeing people spend $100-150 and claiming their $20 credit so that's easily a 5-8x multiplier as Tara talks about. Plenty of those people have said to us they probably wouldn't have spent that much without the ChooseCBR voucher. For what it's worth 🤦

    Tom Adam Tom Adam 5:12 pm 20 Dec 20

    Nick, hardly backs up the claim but thanks anyway. People have agreements and claiming a discount isn’t the same as keeping memberships they would have cancelled - so it’s a bit of a stretch

    I’m just asking for how it is claimed to be a multiplier when most are using it for extant vs new spending.

    Tara Cheyne Tara Cheyne 5:18 pm 20 Dec 20

    Tom Adam I think we are talking about two different things Tom. For every $1 Government spend there is $6.20 economic spend. I've never used the word 'extra' to describe the spend. However, the example I gave is one way a business is drumming up *extra* spend. When we get all the figures from the trial I'll sit down with you and we'll go through all the details together. Good luck for the final few days of trade before your well-deserved break.

    Nick James Nick James 5:18 pm 20 Dec 20

    Tom Adam except you don't know that "most" are using it for that purpose, you've backed up your claim about as well as I have. I'm not looking a gift-horse in the mouth - I reckon it's a decent first go at a program, benefiting people spending from $5-100+ which covers a very wide range of incomes and business types. Anyway, good luck with it.

    Tom Adam Tom Adam 5:20 pm 20 Dec 20

    Nick, yeh for $120 input into my business so far for about the same about of effort to claim it - I’m still not sure if the net benefit to the economy but yep, gift horses has been looked at and the teeth to have been found long.

54-11 54-11 9:50 am 20 Dec 20

We used a $20 voucher last night for a meal. The whole process is really clumsy, and the restaurant seemed somewhat reluctant to accept it. Overall, not a great initiative.

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