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The Scottish Places Using Gift Cards to Support Businesses and Drive Recovery of Towns, Cities and Rural Communities

Aberdeen, the Falkirk district, Kirkcaldy and rural Scotland are using local gift cards to support businesses and drive recovery as the latest Scottish places to introduce Town and City Gift Cards from Scottish fintech Miconex.

The Aberdeen Gift Card is a city wide programme driven by Aberdeen Inspired and supported by Aberdeen City Council as part of efforts to increase footfall safely and support businesses.

“It has been a really difficult year for our city, particularly for hospitality and retail, and we all understand the pressure businesses are under,” said Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired.

“The Aberdeen Gift Card is a conduit to supporting our businesses, who are the lifeblood of our city centre. Now more than ever we need to support them and it is our hope that the public will get behind this and give the gift of Aberdeen, making a difference when it is most needed and helping in the recovery from this crisis and beyond.

“From locals to nationals, there will be a great variety of businesses signed up, giving lots of choice on what to spend it on in the city centre and support our local economy.”

Launching soon, the Kirkcaldy Gift Card funded by Fife Council is part of a collaborative partnership approach to support town centre businesses and encourage local people to love local first by using the gift card across participating town centre businesses, either in person or online.

In Falkirk, the District Towns Gift Card can be spent across Falkirk, Denny, Stenhousemuir, Grangemouth and Bo’ness and was made possible with funding from the Towns and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) Resilience and Recovery Fund, through the Scottish Government and Scotland’s Towns Partnership.

Phil Prentice, chief officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership said collaboration and partnerships are vital to economic recovery in Scotland:

“This year the Scotland Loves Local campaign has encouraged us to ‘think local first’, and these Town and City Gift Cards are a great way to encourage people to support their local high streets. In response to the pandemic, the Scottish Government’s Resilience and Recovery funding has empowered town and city centres to help people shop locally safely, whether in-person or online. Through partnership and collaboration, and encouraging a ‘think local’ message, we can help drive economic recovery in Scotland’s towns.”

 “With the funding, we have been able to widen the reach of the gift card programme to our district towns,” said Elaine Grant, Bid Manager for Falkirk Delivers. “The sense of loyalty to our towns is strong because people appreciate how traders have adapted during the restrictions. With the District Towns Gift Card, we’re harnessing that sense of loyalty, showing how vital local shopping is to the recovery of our towns, and giving residents an easy way to shop locally.”

One of the businesses set to accept the new District Towns Gift Card is gift shop Scarlet Ribbons in Falkirk, owner Lisa Fowler adapted her business during lockdown to survive but says the battle is far from over. 

“I buy stock in January and February for Christmas. When lockdown happened in March I had £25,000 of invoices outstanding. I didn’t have a website to sell online. I panicked at first but then I realised it was sink or swim. I started a personal shopping service using social media for customers wanting gifts, letting them choose their gift and card, I’d hand write their message and package it all up. If it was within 5 miles I’d deliver it too.

“I haven’t had a day off since then. At one point I had my phone in my hand so much from keeping track of orders that my little boy said ‘you love your phone more than me’. I did raffles, bonus balls, sales, I did everything I could to generate cashflow. It was the largest amount of hours I’ve done for the smallest return, but it kept the wolf from the door and got my business name out there. I was doing deliveries for birthdays, new babies, engagements, all when people couldn’t see family.

“The new District Towns Gift Card will keep money in the district, and that’s what we need. We’ve seen the success of the Town and City Gift Cards programme in places like Perth, and having one in our district will bring our businesses together. People will invest in the card because it can be spent in so many places, there isn’t that fear of buying a gift card for a certain store that might not be around next year. I’m embracing Christmas this year, I have to, and I hope people will carry on supporting their area with the District Towns Gift Card.”

It’s not just towns and cities that are putting their faith in local gift card programmes. GrowBiz, Scotland’s specialist rural enterprise agency, has just launched the REDS Rural Gift Card. Designed to support and promote the rural economy by channelling consumer spending directly into Scotland’s rural and island towns and villages, the REDS Rural Gift Card can be spent with more than 120 rural businesses across Scotland. REDS (Rural Enterprise Directory Scotland) is the first comprehensive directory of Scotland’s rural and island businesses and this innovative new gift card scheme is the project’s latest initiative to protect and promote Scotland’s micro-enterprises which form the backbone of our rural economy. 

Our REDS Rural Gift Card supports rural businesses across Scotland as part of the Town and City Gift Card programme.” said Jackie Brierton, CEO of GrowBiz. “Town and city based traders are often connected to a business organisation to support them, but this is often not the case for smaller rural enterprises.

“The needs of rural micro-businesses are quite different. Many would like assistance with digital marketing, particularly in remote areas where accessing broadband is still difficult. We have worked with and supported more than 800 rural businesses since March, everything from tourism and leisure to manufacturing and creative services. The quality and value of what they offer is incredible and that is what we will promote with the REDS Rural Gift Card.

“There is a huge diaspora of Scottish people living around the world as well as a strong tourism culture in Scotland. When people buy the REDS Rural Gift Card as gifts, it will help us to create a circular economy which will make a huge difference to the smaller rural businesses. It will also help them to grow and diversify.”

Adam Flint from Progression Bikes, located in Dunkeld, Perthshire said the REDS Rural Gift Card will help them to attract new customers as a community:

“Being involved with our local business community firstly helps us as businesses to know more about what else is on offer in our area and secondly it helps members of the public to come and take advantage of what we’ve got here relatively easily. The REDS Rural Gift Card means we can get day trippers out from Glasgow or Edinburgh and they can come to places like this, hire an ebike and explore the varied trails right from our shop door. So people who don’t know the area well can come here and they can hire a bike in the morning, have lunch in one of the town’s lovely cafe’s and then they can go canyoning or stand up paddle boarding in the afternoon and we can organise the whole lot for them through our network of businesses.”

With the introduction of the Aberdeen Gift Card, the District Towns Gift Card, Kirkcaldy and the REDS Gift Card, Miconex will operate 17 Town and City Gift Card programmes across Scotland, and more than 50 overall across the UK and Ireland.

Colin Munro, managing director of Perth based Miconex said the founding programme in Perth has paved the way for other places in Scotland to introduce gift card programmes:

“Scotland is leading the way with its approach from government, organisations, charities and places, working together to meet the economic crises in our country. Around £650,000 has been spent through our Scottish programmes since we launched our first Town and City Gift Card in Perth in 2015. It’s a model that works to lock in local spend in a measurable and impactful way in towns and cities, but also across districts and communities.”

Image: Adam Flint from Progression Bikes (image provided by Kelly Topping PR)