"We would like to see our great city succeed": The new Preston gift card set to give boost to local economy

A brand-new ‘Preston Gift Card’ is to be launched to encourage more people to spend locally and to aid the recovery of city centre businesses impacted by Covid-19.

Friday, 23rd October 2020, 3:45 pm
Omar Mitha, of Ocean Designer Menswear is involved in the new Preston gift card scheme

Businesses both small and large have felt the devastating effect of the pandemic, with footfall numbers in the city still falling, and many other hospitality traders closing their doors as the borough shifts to tier three restrictions.

In a bid to aid the recovery of city centre businesses impacted by Covid-19, a brand-new ‘Preston Gift Card’ is to be launched to encourage more people to spend locally.

The scheme is set to help local businesses get back on their feet and is being launched by the Preston Business Improvement District (BID) alongside a number of local traders.

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Shoppers can use their gift card at any local independent store involved in the scheme

More than 100 local shops, hospitality industries, leisure attractions, beauty services and hotels across the city are expected to sign up and accept the city’s new proposal - giving Preston its very own currency for shoppers to spend.

The city wants its share of the UK Gift Card Market, which is worth £5.6billon per year, which in turn, will help to drive local spend and promote a ‘shop local’ message.

And all city-centre businesses are being invited to participate in the scheme, for free, due to BID funding.

Mark Whittle, BID Manager, said: “It’s important that we work with loyal local people to keep spend circulating in their city centre economy, whilst also providing a wide choice of where to spend their well-earned money.

Lush, on Fishergate, will also be a part of the gift card scheme

“The Preston Gift Cart card will provide shoppers with a great local alternative to existing national cards and will be key factor in harnessing the sense of supporting their local businesses in the recovery from this crisis and beyond.

“We’re absolutely committed to helping to drive local spend and consistently promoting a ‘shop local’ message. Our focus remains on helping city centre businesses to recover from the Covid crisis, and flourish beyond.”

Under the new innovation, customers will be able to purchase a pre-loaded gift card online, between £10 and £200, which they can use themselves or give as a present as part of the exciting new concept.

The card can then be spent just like any other card, giving shoppers the chance to spread their spend across as many participating businesses as they wish.

Despite its current closure, popular city-centre bar Baker Street will be included too

The aim is that the card will be accepted in over 100 city centre businesses within the next few months, by both popular independent traders and national brands too.

Jonathan Halton, BID’s lead for the Gift Card said: “We already have some great businesses signed up to accept the card and are looking to launch the card to members of the public very shortly.

“We want to work with a minimum of 100 businesses in the coming months to ensure the card is widely accepted and that users have an abundance of choice on where to go, and what to buy.

“We are excited to launch this product and shout loudly from the rooftops that spending locally matters.”

Shoppers will be encouraged to discover new participating businesses as part of the scheme that they may have never tried before, in a bid to shift Preston traders back into normality.

Omar Mitha, from Ocean Designer Menswear on Cannon Street, the first independent retailer to sign up to accept the card, said: “We’re really proud to be the first independent business in Preston to sign up to accept the Preston Gift Card.

“As a family-run business of over 20 years, we’re passionate about Preston and we would like to see our great city succeed.

“We’ll be accepting the card as a payment method and would encourage other businesses to back the BID and sign up to accept it too, so we, as a community, can see more monies kept within our local community.”

And Lush on Fishergate, who have also gotten on board with the project, hailed the new gift card as ‘a great idea to support local businesses’.

General Manager Danielle Smith said: “As a national brand, we’re passionate locals too. The Preston Gift Card is a great idea to support local businesses whilst giving customers the freedom on where to spend their gift card.

“We’re proud to be the first national brand to sign up to accept the gift card, and look forward to swiping lots of them, as we head towards Christmas”.

Despite Lancashire’s recent shift into tier three, meaning bars and pubs not serving food have had to close their doors, Michelle Ragozzino, General Manager of popular late-night venue, Baker Street is on-board with the idea.

Although the venue has currently closed, Michelle is set to accept gift card payments as soon as hospitality businesses can begin operating as normal again.

She said: “We jumped at the chance to be one of the city’s first bars to sign up to accept the Preston Gift Card.

“We think it’s a great idea, to keep money circulating in the local economy at the same time as providing a brilliant gift for people to spend in lots of great places in our fab city centre, including Baker Street.

“We’re really proud to be the first independent business in Preston to sign up to accept the Preston Gift Card. As a family-run business of over 20 years, we’re passionate about Preston and we would like to see our great city succeed.

“We’ll be accepting the gift card as a payment method and would encourage other businesses to back the BID and sign up to accept the gift card, so we can strengthen our economy as a community.”

Businesses in Preston have seen a decline in recent weeks, as further restrictions have been imposed on the city and then the additional move of Lancashire into the new tier three band.

During lockdown, the Lancashire Post have been encouraging readers to continue supporting local traders where possible.

Preston council have also introduced their ‘Fiver fest’ scheme this month, that encourages city retail therapy lovers to spend five pounds at local businsesses to pump £24million back into the economy every year.

Mark Whittle, Preston BID Manager peviously told the Post: “Preston’s footfall has seen the effect of further restrictive measures being imposed; we must pull together in supporting and visit our city centre safely.

Whether it’s a small independent business, or a national chain which employs many local people, our city centre business community is reliant on the steadfast support of people who live in and around the Preston

“We’d urge people to continue backing local businesses, supporting their city centre, and protecting it for the future. We understand these are challenging times for everyone, but it’s only by supporting each other and looking out for the safety of ourselves and others, that we can get through this period.

“Preston’s business community are committed to making your experience a safe and enjoyable one.”

Businesses don’t pay a penny to become a part of the programme and there remains to be no set up fees for stores that are involved.

However, it does bring additional spend - as customers that redeem gift cards spend 40 per cent more than the value of the gift card on average, according to provider Miconex.

15 per cent of redemption is used by customers visiting businesses for the first time.

According to the company, their prepaid Mastercard ‘provides a new, simple way for people to buy a gift for friends, family and colleagues.’

Preston is the first destination in Lancashire to launch its own card, to help encourage local spending whilst providing customers with a wide range of choice on where to spend their card.

More than 50 local gift card schemes are already in operation - and successful - in cities such as York, Edinburgh, Bath and Sheffield.

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