LOCAL gift cards are driving spend in high streets and downtowns around the world, says Scottish fintech Miconex as it shares key insights from its local gift card programmes.
Sales across Miconex’s programmes in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA topped £12.4 million in 2023. In 2024, demand for shop local continues to rise with local gift card sales up 69% on 2023, to date.
The number of places with a local gift card programme backed by Miconex technology topped 200 for the first time in 2023. 26 new towns, cities and downtown areas launched their own local gift card in 2023, capitalising on the global demand for gift cards and giving places a means to divert online spend back to independent and national bricks and mortar businesses across sectors.
The Aberdeen Gift Card was the best-selling local gift card programme in the UK, with the ShopLK Gift Card taking top place in Ireland, Selkirk Chamber’s programme the top programme in Canada and York Chamber’s programme taking top place in the USA.
Miconex 2023 data shows that 90% of people spend over the value of the gift card on redemption globally, typically 65%. In the UK, 33% spend 100% – 125% more than the value of the gift card on redemption. Globally, 61% of people see their gift card as ‘free money’, spending more than the gift card value as a result.
The range of independent businesses which accept Miconex’s local gift cards – usually alongside a range of national brands – makes the cards unique in the sector. A typical 50%, and up to 100%, of its local gift cards are redeemed with independent shops, restaurants and venues.
Retail was top for redemptions of local gift cards in 2023 in the UK. Primark, M&S, Boots, Argos, TK Maxx, Next, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Dunnes Stores and Aldi were within the top national retailers. New national retailers including Co-op, Smyths Toys and Lidl joined the economy boosting local gift card programmes in 2023.
Hospitality was another big winner with local gift card redemptions in the UK in 2023 with food and drink brands such as Giggling Squid, Bills and Bettys some of the most popular eateries. Arts and cultural venues also benefited with independent venues including Aberdeen Performing Arts and Bristol’s Watershed emerging as popular for redemptions.
2023 also saw a marked move by organisations towards local gift cards for staff rewards and incentives, plus charities using the cards for service user support. In Scotland, over 50% of sales in 2023 were corporate rewards with organisations like Robert Gordon University, Dundee Carers and Shell making the move to local.
Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex and said the appetite for local gift cards continues to grow around the world: “Receiving a local gift card is the first step in an exciting journey of discovery for recipients. Taking into account the typical 65% and up to 125% overspend, the impact of local gift cards in 2023 was significant and this is a trend that is continuing in 2024 with sales up 69% around the world.
“Globally in 2023, 96% of people said they are keen to support local. The mix of independents with national brands, across multiple sectors, makes our local gift cards appealing for both consumers and organisations as the ultimate shop local gift card. In 2024, we’ll be continuing to work alongside our places to drive even more spend into high streets and downtowns.”
The top four local gift card programmes in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA attribute their success to organisational and community support for local:
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “Aberdeen Inspired is delighted and proud of the success of the Aberdeen Gift Card and the many benefits it has brought to the Granite City. It is the perfect way to support our local ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses, be they small, independent retailers or high street names, while bringing much-needed footfall into the city centre.
“It has also proved to be enormously popular on the corporate front with major businesses and institutions, including the Port of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University, turning to the Aberdeen Gift Card to reward and retain key staff. We are proud to be part of the national, indeed global, success of Miconex and the gift card initiative.”
Fionnuala Rabbitt, president of Letterkenny Chamber in Ireland, said: “Each year since our ShopLK gift cards were launched, we have been delighted with the increasing sales levels. Corporate sales are a huge part of the story and the number of corporate customers, as well as the amount they spend, continues to increase. Our corporate customers recognise the variety the ShopLK Gift Card offers employees and, very importantly, the contribution it makes to the local economy.”
Alice Skalesky, executive director at Selkirk Biz, Manitoba, said: “In 2023, our gift card programme thrived thanks to the community’s steadfast commitment to local businesses. The cards, designed to encourage local spending, not only boosted the local economy but also fostered a sense of community pride and resilience. Our gift card incentivised residents to explore and rediscover the diverse offerings of their hometown, creating a ripple effect of increased foot traffic and sales for local merchants.”
Madonna Mogul, executive director at York Chamber of Commerce, Nebraska, said: “I feel the biggest factor for our card programme’s success is our large employers in the community. Our healthcare system and our manufacturing district companies use our program for their bonuses and safety incentives. The CEOs at our large businesses feel strongly about supporting our local businesses in this way. In addition, various City Departments, the county fair, and local newspaper use the Chamber Card program to pay out their prizes. Employees will come in and say how much they appreciate the cards and wind up purchasing some of their own to give as gifts.”