Team profile- meet Business Development Manager and Canadian Board Member Janette MacDonald

Joining the Board of Miconex Canada and driving Downtown Gift Cards in the country is Janette MacDonald. Glaswegian Janette has lived in Canada for all of

Joining the Board of Miconex Canada and driving Downtown Gift Cards in the country is Janette MacDonald. Glaswegian Janette has lived in Canada for all of her adult life and spent over 17 years as the CEO of the Downtown London BIA. Janette brings this wealth of place management experience to her new role as we continue to support business communities across Canada.

We caught up with Janette to talk perils of paper Downtown Dollar programs, how BIAs can show their worth to their members, and creating vibrancy and uniqueness in our places:

“I was born and raised in Glasgow. I started working in Royal Bank of Scotland when I left school and decided to move to Canada shortly after. My brother and sister in law had moved to Canada a few years before and my brother agreed to sponsor me. I found employment in banking and after a few changes spent 27 years in the industry. During that time I married and had two terrific children.

“In April of 2002 I joined the Downtown London Business Improvement District, spending 17 years as its CEO. As CEO strategist, I worked with the board of directors on placemaking and advocacy. One of the most memorable projects was bringing an additional downtown campus of Fanshawe College with 2,500 students and faculty, offering arts and hospitality courses and developing staff for the future. Another was the development of Dundas Place, the first flexible events space in the city. I also had the same team from 2002 to when I left, we had fun but we worked hard. It was a great team. When I left Downtown London, OBIAA presented me with a lifetime achievement award.

“I met Colin Munro, managing director of Miconex, at a conference when he offered to help put up my banners. When I heard about Downtown Gift Cards, I said to Colin, “Where were you when I was at the BIA?” This is the system that I’d spent years searching for. We had a paper Downtown Dollar program at Downtown London but it was a very high maintenance system. It was difficult to determine the actual impact and while the security and due diligence was tight, if they got lost, you couldn’t cancel them. The ‘dollars’ were difficult for customers to redeem and businesses didn’t want the hassle of bringing them to the office for reimbursement.

“After Downtown London, I set up my own business called Shift Your Spend which encourages people to shift 10% of their household spending to local independent businesses. Downtown Gift Cards are a great way to make that shift. We need to educate businesses and consumers about the power of their dollar. A little from a lot of people can make a huge impact.

“The reason I joined Miconex is because I believe in Downtown Gift Cards; they really help a BIAs membership. At Miconex, I’m the Business Development Manager. I’ll be the person explaining to BIAs why they need a Downtown Gift Card program, getting on webinars, tapping into my network, and working alongside our client success managers to drive success for our Canadian programs. I want to see our gift cards in as many BIAs as possible but it’s also about sharing ideas and what we can all learn from each other.

“People can buy gift cards for businesses and places all over the world now – as easily as any online purchase. Downtowns that don’t have their own gift card run the risk of being at a competitive disadvantage and miss out on opportunities for promotion and sales. From an internal perspective, the gift card program provides very comprehensive data that shows where the cards are purchased, redeemed and proves the impact on local sales.  They are a great and fool proof way to demonstrate ‘what have you done for me lately?’  It’s a very simple message – more money in the tills and a more successful business district = less vacant storefronts. A win-win-win. That’s what businesses care about. Being successful and being part of a successful district.

“It’s time to help our places flourish and not merely survive,” Janette MacDonald

“Now we can see covid in the rear view mirror, it’s time to help our places flourish and not merely survive. Downtown Gift Cards are closed loop, so we can guarantee that the funds will go straight into the tills of business owners. Corporations now want to give their staff a local option for rewards. In the past, the BIA maybe didn’t have the tools to do that. Or they’d do it with paper gift cards and it would take their staff 3 months to put a $50,000 order together. The marketability of Downtown Gift Cards is exciting, the convenience is demonstrable and the success is evident.

“Everybody wants convenience, and thinks they’re too busy to go shopping. The beauty of Downtown Gift Cards is that they’re convenient for customers. There’s the psychology too, you get a gift card and it’s like ‘found’ money. There’s the personal perspective too, if you don’t support your small businesses, who is going to employ your kids in the future?

“Customer confidence is at an all-time low. People are still afraid to visit their downtowns and we need to incentivise people to get back on the streets, into the stores and the restaurants. As we’ve seen in places like Prince Edward Island with the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card, discounting local gift cards is a way to do that.

“As for me, I’m a golfer, a wine-drinker, very sociable, and love to travel. There’s no place better than being with my kids and grandkids. I’m also a relationship builder and like nothing more than networking, introducing people to each other that I think would work well together.

“I was last in Scotland in 2016 and I can’t wait to get back there again. Favourite cities in Scotland are Inverness, Edinburgh and of course Glasgow. In Canada, Vancouver is a fantastic big city with its mountains and scenery. Halifax in Nova Scotia is cosmopolitan with its nightlife, fashion and food scene. The people of the Maritime Provinces have a heart of gold. Toronto is the biggest and the best, brimming with confidence, which I love.

“The challenges being faced by BIAs in Canada are very similar to those being faced by BIDs in the UK. Locking down our small businesses has been devastating. Now is the time to give the love to our small businesses again, to build them up, to create vibrancy and uniqueness and I can’t wait to work with places to introduce their own Downtown Gift Card.”


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