National and independent businesses unite to inject £4.6m into the UK economy
National and independent businesses are uniting to inject over £4.6 million into the UK economy in 2021 through local gift card schemes.
Over 8500 businesses are part of the pioneering Town and City Gift Card concept from payments provider Miconex, local gift cards for over 100 places in the UK and Ireland which can be spent with retail, hospitality, leisure and services, in both national and independent businesses.
Around 65% of businesses registered with Town and City Gift Cards are independent. One of the independent businesses involved with the newest Town and City Gift Card, the Hereford Gift Card, is family run department store Philip Morris, which has operated in Hereford for over 175 years. Managing partner John Jones said it’s vital for businesses to work together:
“Anything that encourages people to think local and shop local is to be welcomed. I’m a great believer in what can be achieved if we work together. By collaborating, we can create a better experience for customers and flourish collectively. It makes a massive difference when people shop locally. If all the money that used to be spent outside of Hereford was spent in the city, it would transform Hereford.”
The mutual dependence of national and independent businesses for retaining and clawing back expenditure which might otherwise be spent elsewhere was highlighted by the University of Southampton’s High Street Performance and Evolution report, alongside the emergence of symbiotic relationships between corporate retailers and local independent stores.
The Local Data Company on behalf of accountancy firm PWC found that 8739 national retailers, with more than 5 locations, closed during the first 6 months of 2021 with 3488 opening, a net change of -5251. They also note that the rate of store closures has slowed. A key concern noted by the report was the ‘shifting consumer preference to out-of-town shopping’ with the suggestion that ‘investors must consider how to repurpose spaces to attract footfall’, ‘creating a retail and hospitality destination’ and ‘showcasing independent and local operators’.
An independent business that is seeing strong redemptions through its local gift card, the Barnsley Gift Card, is Morley Meats in Barnsley. Owner Pete Morley said: “If I get four £20 Barnsley Gift Cards in during the day, that’s £80 extra in the till and the money is in our account the next day. I think every business should be a part of their local gift card. Imagine a customer coming in asking if you accept the gift card and you have to say no, turning away money and losing a customer. I can’t understand that.
“Another benefit of the gift card is that it can help businesses to work together. We’re located in Barnsley’s new market food hall, part of the new Glass Works development. You’ve got your traditional butcher, grocer and fishmonger alongside your deli and florist. A customer could spend £5 on fruit and vegetables and then come in and get their meat. One gift card gives them access to lots of Barnsley businesses, and encourages them into Barnsley Markets.”
The UK government has set out plans for £10bn of funding for high streets and town centres, in its July 2021 policy paper: Build Back Better High Streets. It states that 72% of retail sales in 2020 took place in-store. Supporting a diverse mix of activities and businesses, making businesses large and small feel welcome and supporting a physical, social experience of togetherness, were all mentioned within the strategy to revitalise high streets.
M&S, Primark, John Lewis and Boots are four of the national brands participating in Town and City Gift Card programmes, with over £300,000 of Town and City Gift Cards redeemed at the four national brands since 2020.
The most popular M&S store in England for redemption of a Town and City Gift Card in 2020 and 2021 (to date) is Scarborough, through the Scarborough Gift Card. John Lewis in Cambridge is the most popular John Lewis store in England for redemption in both 2020 and 2021, through the Cambridge Gift Card. Cambridge’s Primark store is also the most popular Primark store in England for redemptions in 2021, to date. In 2020, it was Primark’s Sunderland store. To date, Boots in Barnsley is the most popular Boots store in England for redemptions of Town and City Gift Cards in 2021.
Another national retailer which is part of the Town and City Gift Card concept is cookware retailer ProCook, who have over 50 stores around the UK. ProCook is part of the Bishop’s Stortford Gift Card, which launched in July 2021, and is also part of the Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card. Teresa Smith, region manager for ProCook said: “It’s vital to have your independent businesses in a town centre, alongside your nationals, as they support each other. People might visit the town to visit a particular national brand, and the independents benefit, or vice versa. With the Bishop’s Stortford Gift Card, people can spend a little here and there, which will be beneficial to all businesses.”
Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex and said: “The idea that national and independent stores can not only co-exist but benefit from the presence of each other is not new, and collaboration is a key tenet of the Town and City Gift Card concept. Both national and independent businesses have their place in our towns and cities, and contribute to the overall attractiveness of the consumer offering; the loss of a national brand or a much loved independent can be devastating for an area.
“Customers want diversity in their towns and cities, and creating successful, vibrant, inclusive towns and cities is very much on the government agenda. By participating in their local Town and City Gift Card programme, nationals and independents have a tangible means to unite, collaborate and contribute to the evolution of their town or city.”