Shop Local with Town Gift Card.

| Katarzyna Tomczak

Consumers encouraged to shop local with town gift cards to support businesses reopening in Northern Ireland.

Fintech Miconex has launched a new Spend It campaign across its 5 Town and City Gift Card programmes in Northern Ireland, Enniskillen, Belfast, Antrim, Causeway Coast & Glens and Strabane, encouraging consumers to get out and spend local gift cards to support businesses reopening after the latest lockdown.

The campaign asks consumers to share where they have spent their local gift card, liking or following Town and City Gift Cards on Twitter or Facebook and tagging the company on their photo, to be put into a prize draw to win a £100 Town and City Gift Card of their choice.

Retail footfall in Northern Ireland in the week to 1st May 2021 increased by 46% following the easing of lockdown restrictions on the 30th April. Overall UK footfall saw a slight weekly decrease of 2%, at 74% of the equivalent week in 2019.

The reopening of restaurants, cafés and bars in Northern Ireland on the 30th April positively impacted on overall UK seated diner reservations on Saturday 1st May, at 71% of the equivalent Saturday in 2019, up 9% from the previous week. Meanwhile, the NHBF found that 10% of hair, beauty and barbering businesses have closed their doors for good during the pandemic, with an average loss of 45% of 2019 turnover.

Over 47,000 Town and City Gift Cards were purchased in 2020. Each gift card can be spent with a variety of businesses in a particular town or city- from retail and leisure to hospitality and services- and are designed to make it easy for customers to shop local, keeping money locked into an area and supporting businesses.

A business that has seen spend through its local Town and City Gift Cards scheme following the reopening of non-essential retail in Northern Ireland is Toytown in Enniskillen. Paul Doherty from Toytown said:

“We reopened on the 30th April and it’s going very well so far. We’ve adapted the shopping experience with a one way system and customers say that they feel safe shopping with us. Of course, it has been a difficult time for non-essential retailers, but I think people are more inclined to shop locally now.

Enniskillen has embraced the Enniskillen Gift Card because the whole town is involved. With some gift cards, you are limited where you can use it, but there are lots of shops and places where you can use the Enniskillen Gift Card. Many local employers use it for their staff as rewards and incentives too.

“We tend to get lots of new customers with the gift card because when you receive the card, you go online and see where it can be spent, and we’ve seen a lot more being used lately as the gift card has gathered momentum. The best thing for us about the gift card is that it brings people through the door, and maybe they see we stock a certain item or they spot something for another occasion and they think ‘I must go back there’. The gift card brings people through the door and it’s down to us to encourage them to come back.”

The popularity of Town and City Gift Cards is attributed to the rise in use of multi-store gift cards and local shopping. The Gift Card and Voucher Association found that retail spend fell by 3.6% in 2020, the biggest drop in 50 years. Gift cards, however, remain popular. 76.3% have purchased a gift card in the last three years and uncertainty in UK retail has increased the popularity of multi-store gift cards, at 39.4% of gift cards in March 2021 vs. 32.4% in December 2020.

Self-gifting of gift cards is on the rise, with 31.8% purchasing a gift card for self-use over the past three years. 17.1% of gift card purchasers said supporting local businesses or the high street was a reason for them buying a gift card for themselves, increasing to 25.2% for 25-44 year olds. 19 new Town and City Gift Card programmes launched across the UK and Ireland between August and December 2020, as places sought to make local shopping easier, tapping into the desire to support local.

The new Spend It campaign from Miconex is part of its client success programme, helping places to maximise success for their programmes with multi-channel marketing campaigns. Over 400 towns and cities took part in Miconex’s Great Town and City Christmas Quiz in December 2020 to find the brainiest place in Britain and encourage people to spend locally. The competition attracted over 5000 entries with Camberley in Surrey taking the top spot followed by Scottish town Elgin.

Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex and commented: “Customers have taken the first step and purchased a local gift card, now is the time to spend it. A Town and City Gift Card is a piece of potential. The potential to support a small, independent business who has struggled through the last year. The potential to keep money locked into where you live and the potential to safeguard jobs, livelihoods and the vibrancy of where you live.

“Your local gift card can stay in your bag, wallet or in a drawer at home, or it can be turned into drinks with friends at your local, fish and chips on the seafront, a new outfit for the warmer weather to come or a long awaited haircut. Now is the time to get out and spend locally.”