It’s a great present for friends and family - this is the obvious one!
Kendal is a vibrant market town in the Lake District, one of the most beautiful areas of the UK. Close to the sea and to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the town is a popular base for tourists, walkers and sightseers.
The Kendal Gift Card programme is run by Sarah Williams, manager of the town’s Business Improvement District (BID). The Kendal Card is shaped like a piece of the town’s famed Mint Cake!
Sarah Williams, BID Manager for Kendal, says, “I was looking for some key projects for the town. We could have gone down the usual route that a lot of BIDs have gone down, i.e. have lots of festivals, one-off hits, that are good for the day, that may have softly shown some increase in business income. But we needed something that would have longer effects, be sustainable and keep the money in the town.
“Also, Kendal is in a beautiful part of the country, but we have a bypass so people sometimes forget we’re here. And we’ve got so much to offer. So producing a gift card, shaped as a piece of Mint Cake – that could be used in independents as well as in corporates – we felt that was the way to go.
“We also needed a programme that was measurable and achievable, so we could report on how much we’ve actually put into the local economy. The Kendal Gift Card gives us all these hard-fact figures.”
Sarah says, “I’d already gone through the process with another company who had a different outlook – they only wanted to do independents. It didn’t sit comfortably with me, so we looked into doing it ourselves, through a Visa broker system, but it was so out of our comfort zone.
“Then I landed on Miconex and I went up to Perth. In terms of ease of signing up with Miconex, we were the second to sign up but the first to do it with both independents and multiples. And we’ve had so much support from them. People might say, ‘Well, that’s what they’re paid for,’ but I think they’ve gone above and beyond that. We’ve continued to work with them, with them doing our social media stuff specifically for the Gift Card. They also came down and helped with the launch of it. Because they know what it’s about, it’s very easy for them to do it.”
Sarah recalls, “The budget process was arduous in terms of going backwards and forwards to the BID board, getting the approval, making sure the figures were right, understanding the figures and making sure that actually we were ok on this, because it is not our money [to invest], but after that, I actually found it a very quick and easy process.”
Bringing in the retailers
There are 105 retailers accepting the Kendal Gift Card, both independents and multiples (chains). What was it like getting them on board?
Sarah says, “When you’re a BID, or any town/place management, you’re always going to get the ‘anti’s and you’re always going to get people that will try it. And you have to accept that. But we as a Kendal BID decided that we were going to not charge businesses, and there’s no contract – so if you’re not in it, it seems ludicrous. 99% of our retailers are amazing, and say, ‘Why not?!’, and we sign them up.”
“Some businesses say, ‘But I’ve got my own gift card,’ and we say, ‘That’s OK! This is actually adding to it.’ We’ve got Boots, Mountain Warehouse, Booths, Beales and Pizza Express to sign up. These businesses have their own gift cards but they’ve realised we’re adding to their customer base rather than taking away.”
The Kendal Card is fairly new to the town but already the benefits are being noted by the BID management, the retailers and the customers.
Sarah says, “The reporting element of it is great. We can easily say to one of our businesses, ‘You’ve had £2,500 spent in your store using the Kendal Card, and you might not have got that otherwise.’ You can now put that bottom-line figure on.
“People like to buy gift cards, but it can be a cop-out if you just get one from Amazon. This opens it up to Kendal businesses, and it’s put independents, who can’t do their own gift card, on the same level as the big businesses.
“We’ve also been able to help the biggies, who actually pay the most to their BID levies. I’m a great believer – and this is why I brought this project in – is that if you look after both your biggies and your littlies, their symbiotic relationship works well. If you have a town just full of independent shops, that’s ok, but then they go elsewhere for their Marks & Spencer and their Debenhams. Whereas this way, we’ve actually got the best of both worlds.
“I think it’s just a brilliant idea. It’s not a completely new idea, but this programme takes it further so it’s an all-inclusive one.”
What do Kendal’s retailers think of the Kendal Card so far?
Beales Department Store
Dan Morley, Manager of Beales Department Store in Kendal, is also Chairperson of the Kendal Business Improvement District, so he was enthusiastic about the programme from the start.
He says, “We’re a market town and it’s great when all retailers get involved with a programme. It helps to link the town and emphasises that we’re all part of the community. And our customers will have more choice as they can use the Kendal Card in multiple businesses. It’s a much more succinct customer offering.
“We like the fact that we know more money is now being spent in the town.”
Made In Cumbria
Debbie Sharpe is Retail Manager at Made In Cumbria, which is the Tourist Information Centre as well as a retailer of local gifts, crafts and speciality foods. Made In Cumbria signed up as a seller and accepter of the Kendal Card at the launch in September 2016.
Debbie says, “We like that it keeps money within the town centre. It’s one way of everybody shopping locally, and putting money back. Through the Gift Card programme we’ll get the repeat customers that we need, and we’ll get the loyalty.
“Our customers also like the idea they’re keeping money in the town centre. There are a lot of shops in the town that support it.”
Any advice from Kendal?
Dan Morley says, “Don’t worry that it will detract from your own offers. We have our own card at Beales and the Kendal Card complements it.”
Debbie Sharpe adds, “To other businesses, I’d say, ‘Definitely do it.’ You get your repeat customers, your loyalty, you keep the money in the town centre, you’re all working as one, you all support each other.”
Sarah Williams advises, “Check your figures and whether they’re right for you. We had the budget to be able to fund it for three years. In other words, we weren’t asking businesses to pay anything, we were just asking them to have their own Visa machine.
“The other thing is that you will get a certain amount of breakage – that’s the money left if the customers don’t spend all of their cards’ value in the time allowed. I would say, don’t rely solely on the breakage as a way to invest.
“To retailers, I would simply say, ‘If you’ve got a Visa machine already, why wouldn’t you be in it?’ ”
What’s happening next for the Kendal Card? Sarah says, “I want to get new retailers in the town on board, and also push the wedding-gift side of things.”
Miconex are working with BIDs, towns and cities across the UK to establish new local gift card programmes. To find out more please contact Colin Munro at Miconex – firstname.lastname@example.org – 01738 444 376
It’s a great present for friends and family - this is the obvious one!
It supports the local economy
It can be used as an incentive or reward by local businesses and organisations
It makes a great wedding present
or leaving gift
15% of redemptions are at new businesses
People that redeem gift cards on average spend 40% more than the value received
The card can be used in multiple business
It’s easy for businesses to get involved as the existing Visa network is used
It provides a new revenue stream for the town/city via breakage
It makes a great wedding present or leaving gift
It can be used as a visitor pass by offering discounted entry for attractions
Some businesses say, ‘But I’ve got my own gift card,’ and we say, ‘That’s OK! This is actually adding to it.’ We’ve got Boots, Mountain Warehouse, Booths, Beales and Pizza Express to sign up. These businesses have their own gift cards but they’ve realised we’re adding to their customer base rather than taking away
It helps to link the town and emphasises that we’re all part of the community. And our customers will have more choice as they can use the Kendal Card in multiple businesses. It’s a much more succinct customer offering. We like the fact that we know more money is now being spent in the town.