National and independent businesses are uniting to drive economic recovery in Wales through local gift card schemes. Over 8500 businesses in the UK and Ireland are part of the pioneering Town and City Gift Card concept from payments provider Miconex, including hundreds of businesses in Wales. These local gift cards can be spent with retail, hospitality, leisure and services, in both national and independent businesses.
In Wales, the new Welsh Government programme for government, published in June 2021, outlines its intention to develop masterplans for towns and high streets. There are four Town and City Gift Card programmes in Wales; Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport and Swansea, following the launch of the Big Heart of Swansea Gift Card in October 2021.
Andrew Douglas, Swansea BID Operations Manager said:
“One of the benefits of the Town and City Gift Card concept is the range of businesses we can support with it, from our anchors like M&S and Tesco to small independent businesses. Our town and city centres are the beating heart of the Welsh economy and they need to be nurtured now more than ever. Initiatives like this one send the very positive message that Swansea city centre is open for business and it needs the support of consumers in moving onto its next successful chapter.”
Around 65% of businesses registered with Town and City Gift Cards are independent. Launching the FOR Cardiff Gift Card for independent businesses in 2017, FOR Cardiff updated their gift card programme in 2020 to encompass national brands too.
Emily Cotterill, Projects Manager at FOR Cardiff BID said:
“The difficulty with a gift card scheme purely for independents is that customers often don’t differentiate between the two, they want the greatest variety in where they can spend their gift card. Decision making for national brands is often centralised, which can stall collaboration efforts between national and independent businesses at a local level. A local gift card is an easy way that they can collaborate.”
The Merthyr Tydfil Gift Card launched in 2018 and can be spent with over 35 businesses in Merthyr.
Elizabeth Bedford, BID Co-ordinator for We Love Merthyr commented:
“The Merthyr Tydfil Gift Card was implemented to keep spend in the town and support a wide range of businesses, from the big brands like Boots and Wilko to the small independents. Gift cards can work well in small towns. In comparison to Cardiff, Swansea etc., Merthyr is a little town but our residents are very passionate about supporting local businesses, with our strapline being Shop Safe, Shop Local, Shop Merthyr. A variety of businesses and the local gift card will help drive footfall and keep spend in our town.”
Dawn Bowden MS for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney:
“I am very pleased with the growing success of the We Love Merthyr gift card scheme. It is a great way to show support for local businesses and by using the card we keep the benefits in the town. That in turn supports the local economy and jobs for local people. I would urge others to get involved and let us all help to support the town after a hard period due to covid restrictions.”
A business that has purchased the We Love Merthyr Gift Card is Tydfil Training, which is part of a large group of educators including The College Merthyr Tydfil and The University of South Wales. Paul Gray is Chief Executive of Tydfil Training, and Chair of Merthyr Tydfil Town Centre Partnership, and said it’s vital for businesses to show their support for the local area:
“When we use the We Love Merthyr Gift Card as a reward for our students, the investment we make in Merthyr stays in Merthyr. There tends to be lots of negativity about the demise of the high street, but if we don’t support our businesses, then we get what we deserve.”
The Local Data Company on behalf of accountancy firm PWC found that 424 Welsh national retailers, with more than 5 locations, closed during the first 6 months of 2021 with 164 opening, a net change of -260. They also note that the rate of store closures has slowed. A key concern raised 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’.
The Newport Gift Card launched in 2017 and can be spent with over 50 businesses.
Kevin Ward, Manager of Newport Now BID said:
“Our main message in 2017 was that the Newport Gift Card keeps the Newport pound in Newport, and that message is still relevant today. Every business is welcome to sign up to the Newport Gift Card, and that’s the beauty of the scheme. You can have your local opticians, restaurant or pub on the gift card, alongside your big department stores. The nationals are popular for redemptions, and retail and hospitality are both popular independent businesses for redemption.
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 Welsh 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.”