East Aldine residents who shop near home can save money and boost the local economy under a new program started by the East Aldine Management District.

The new “Open Rewards” Shop Local program provides a 10 percent bonus to shoppers who support area businesses.

The program is already rapidly growing in popularity with East Aldine residents who shop at a growing number of local businesses that are participating.

By late February, the number of Open Rewards members had increased to 176 users, up 56 from December.

More importantly, the Open Rewards program is living up to its mission statement to “Be True to East Aldine.”

Statistics show that the program has inspired shoppers to repeatedly participate: the 1,149 Open Rewards purchases in late February represented a 76 percent increase over the number of December transactions.

“This is an incentive for both consumers and businesses,” said Monica Campos, marketing manager for the district. “It allows our local businesses to offer rewards and incentives to the folks who are shopping. And it’s free to the businesses. It costs them nothing.”

The program allows shoppers to earn a 10 percent “reward” from participating businesses. The rewards can be made to shoppers through their Venmo or Zelle apps, she explained.  They can then apply those rewards to purchases from any participating merchant.

Campos stressed that the new program is not an automatic discount at the time a purchase is made.

“We want to avoid calling it a discount,” Campos said. “Customers do get 10 percent back on their spending, but the whole purpose is to encourage folks to go back and spend that again at participating local businesses.”

Richard Cantu, executive director of the management district, said the program “is already going very well,” as more residents learn about it.

To improve awareness and promote the rewards program, Campos has been distributing new promotional materials at local shops, stores and restaurants.

New “table-toppers” will soon be distributed in local eateries will let diners know at their tables that they can earn rewards for future meals, Campos said.

A recent survey showed that more than 99 percent of the Open Rewards participants are East Aldine residents. And 85.7 percent say the Open Rewards program has influenced their shopping or dining choices.

The program also is inspiring some local friendly competition among participants: at least one prominent resident has recently bragged on Facebook about her recent “savings” at Jed’s Hardware.

According to a February report for the management district, the Open Rewards program is being used on purchases ranging from home improvement items to clothing to restaurants, and drugstore items.

The top businesses in February included Home Depot, Manny’s Mexican Grille and Seafood, Ross, Mom’s restaurant, Alma Latina, Papa’s and Chick-fil-A and Walgreens.

To participate in the program, customers can download the Open Rewards App from Apple or Google Play.

— by Anne Marie Kilday