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New Town and City Gift Cards site aims to revive UK high streets

Town and City Gift Cards York50 towns and cities around the UK are featured on a new website to support high street recovery.

Loyalty and gift card provider Miconex has developed a new Town and City Gift Cards website that features over 50 of its gift card programmes in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The new site will enable customers to buy gift cards for towns and cities around the UK in one place. Gift cards have to be spent with participating local businesses, supporting high street recovery.

17 of the UK’s 100 largest cities have Town and City Gift Card programmes that will be promoted on the website: Glasgow, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Leicester, Cardiff, Belfast, Wolverhampton, Bournemouth, York, Cambridge, Gloucester, Watford, Cheltenham, Exeter, Bath, St. Albans and Halifax.

The Town and City Gift Cards programme picked up the award for best use of prepaid at the Incentive Awards, a ceremony held virtually on the 24th September 2020. Over £1.5m has been spent through Town and City Gift Cards since 2015.

New data released by Miconex shows that the average value of gift cards purchased is £34.56, with men spending slightly more at £37.37 and women spending £33.32. When redeeming Town and City Gift Cards, Miconex reports that recipients spend on average 40% more than the value of the gift card received.

“Gift card programmes are vital for cities to encourage customers back onto our high streets in a managed, careful way, especially as we approach the Christmas period,” said Managing Director of Miconex Colin Munro. “In the last week of August, footfall rose to around 75% of 2019 levels. With Eat Out to Help Out at an end, we need new reasons for people to visit their towns and cities.”

“Town and City Gift Card Programmes take spend that we’ve seen diverted to single retailer gift cards and bring it back to high streets. Amazon reported a 42% increase in profits recently, yet 22% of the 7.6 million jobs at risk in the UK are in retail. Business improvement districts and councils are putting all of their energy into supporting their businesses; it was the right time for us to invest in a new website to support that.”

“The platform is a slick marketplace for us to promote towns and cities, for retailers to showcase what they offer, and for customers to be inspired. Customers can browse the range of Town and City Gift Card programmes, see where cards can be spent, and buy cards for friends and family all around the UK. It makes a whole town or city into one giant department store, and as all money on the cards is held in a secure account until it is redeemed, it’s a sensible way to give the gift of choice.”

The website, created in association with digital design and build company Bravand, launched in September. A key benefit of the new site is the speed in which a new programme can be developed says Mr Munro:

“Understandably, towns and cities want to implement gift card programmes quickly. Because we have the infrastructure in place, we can do this in 6-8 weeks. It’s easy for any place to be a part of the platform.”

“For a town or city, we can provide a fully managed service that includes the technical aspects of payment and redemption, and fulfilment of online orders. This means they can focus all of their energy on activities to support businesses and communities.”

The York Business Improvement District introduced the York Gift Card in association with Miconex in October 2019. As it approaches its first birthday, there are 300 businesses in York registered to receive the gift card, making it one of the most successful Town and City Gift Card programmes in the UK.

“In York there has been a big conscious shift to buy local,” said Carl Alsop, Operations Manager at York BID. “Lockdown has taken its toll on York, like all cities. We lost around 10 businesses from the scheme but some have reopened in new locations and there are also new businesses springing up. Supporting local businesses by spending locally is more important than ever. It’s use them or lose them.”

“We’ve had a really strong uptake of the York Gift Card and I think that’s because people are really proud to live here and give the card as gifts. We had a £500 gift card purchased by a family in America for their daughter studying at York. We asked if they wanted a message on the card and now we offer this as a service. This has made the experience of receiving the York Gift Card even more personal.”

“We have large amounts of independent businesses registered and a lot of variety, everything from the York Dungeon, York Minster and artisan chocolate shops on our famous Shambles to car parks and opticians. It doesn’t cost businesses anything to be a part of the programme and it’s another revenue stream.”

“Christmas 2020 will be a crucial time for York businesses. It’s when we have our largest amount of gift card sales. We’ll be introducing a second choice of card design and reminding people that buying a card is an easy way to support York, locking money into the city and keeping it off Amazon. We’re not out of the woods yet and the York Gift Card is an important part of our efforts to encourage people back to our city.”

Since lockdown, Miconex have launched new Town and City Gift Card programmes in East Ayrshire, Southport, Camberley and Leicester with Falkirk, Yorkshire, Barnsley, Chester, Tavistock, Isle of Wight, Preston, Canterbury, Bury St. Edmunds, Knowsley, Ballinrobe, Aberdeen, Drogheda and an additional scheme in Perthshire to follow.

The Leicester Gift Card launched on the 1st October where it is hoped that it will bring some relief to businesses that have been impacted by the local lockdown measures. BID Leicester Operations Executive James Dunham commented:

“The local restrictions had negative effects for our city, and the Leicester Gift Card is the ideal scheme and programme to encourage people back into the city in a controlled way.”

“People also tend to spend more than the value of the card they receive as a gift, and it encourages them to be more experimental and visit local businesses they may never have visited before. Partnering with Town and City Gift Cards is another way for us to deliver on our core remit- to support businesses in the city.”