It’s a great present for friends and family - this is the obvious one!
Name of area – East Lothian, one of the 32 local authority regions in Scotland
Size of population – Over 103,000 across the region
Number of businesses accepting – 126
Independents and/or multiples – Independents
When launched – 12th November 2018
How it’s managed – It’s an East Lothian Council-led project set up in partnership with Miconex
Gift Card website – www.eastlothiangiftcard.co.uk
East Lothian is a historic county bordering Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders. It’s relatively compact but has many attractive towns and villages, as well as 40 miles of coastline and some world-class golf courses. It’s a popular county for day trips and holidays, often known as “Edinburgh’s coast and countryside”. Gemma Slight, who works in Business Development for East Lothian Council, says, “We’ve got great wee high streets and town centres, yet we’re able to escape to the countryside or visit the beach all within the same day, so we’re really lucky. There’s a strong community feel within East Lothian, and the businesses are great at working together.”
Gemma explains: “East Lothian Council aims to encourage and support small businesses as much as possible. These businesses provide local employment and help to grow the local economy, so they’re absolutely vital.”
“Over the last nine or ten years, East Lothian Council has run a ‘Christmas Shop Local’ campaign in the run-up to Christmas,” Gemma says. “It’s a reward scheme where people who spent £20 or more in any of the local participating businesses were entered into a prize draw to win a share of £2000 in vouchers, which could be spent back in the local businesses. That was successful for us for a long time, but it is a paper-based system and very resource-heavy because everything had to be logged manually. We felt it was a natural progression from that to introducing the East Lothian Gift Card. It’s all electronic, which is a much more effective way to manage it and, importantly, it keeps the spend in East Lothian.”
The East Lothian Gift Card is accepted only at independently owned businesses throughout the region, which aligns with the Council’s objective to support independents. To date, 126 businesses have signed up.
Like many councils, East Lothian gives long-service awards each year to staff. Previously, the awards would have been vouchers for department stores, but now they give the Gift Card. Gemma adds, “The pre-Christmas rush was all about getting set up for Christmas, but now that we’re launched and we know how it works, we’re looking to develop the corporate side further. So far the feedback has been really good.”
How has East Lothian Council marketed the Gift Card so far? “We launched in mid-November and the priority was marketing it to the public as Christmas gifts. That worked really well; we were taken aback by the amount of sales. Our marketing involved local press adverts and an STV advert, but in this community, social media and word of mouth are just as powerful. The participating businesses –restaurants, hotels, shops – are the best advocates for the scheme, and we were really pleased with how the word got around. We had great feedback straight away from the businesses, which helped with our job of getting people interested.”
The East Lothian Gift Card was implemented in November 2018. What benefits will it bring to East Lothian as an area, and to the individual businesses?
Gemma says, “The Gift Card is definitely supporting the local businesses. Instead of vouchers for chains or department stores, or restaurants that are part of multiples, the spend will remain in East Lothian, which will help keep our high streets vibrant, keep people visiting, get the footfall back and support the shopkeepers and restaurants.
“I think as [the Gift Card programme] grows it will help put East Lothian on the map. Some people know individual towns, e.g. they might be familiar with North Berwick, as a lot of people used to go there for holidays, or still do. But all our towns are unique and individual, so if we can boost the profile of East Lothian as well, then that’s obviously a good thing.”
Two owners/managers of businesses in East Lothian also told us what they liked about the East Lothian Gift Card.
Frances Wright, who owns Malt Kiln Gifts in Haddington, had seen a presentation about the Miconex Gift Card programme at a Scotland's Towns Partnership conference and is an enthusiastic ambassador for the East Lothian Gift Card.
“I’m very aware of the fact that the Gift Card market is huge, and if we can retain some of that spend in East Lothian it will benefit lots of businesses. Getting it set up was all straightforward. And I’ve had my first one [spent in the shop] and it worked well.”
What will the benefits be to Frances’ business and to East Lothian? “Any money that’s spent in a local business is good. I’m hoping that it encourages people to shop more locally. I’m thinking about the big picture, and the fact that it supports the independents is great. I sell my own gift vouchers, but I think the Gift Card market is just phenomenal.
“I also appreciate the fact that East Lothian are using them for their own long-service awards, so I think that from the top of East Lothian Council all the way down, it shows support and demonstrates how important we are as independent businesses.”
Paul Kinnoch, who owns several businesses in the county including The Tyneside Tavern, Mazzoli Italian Kitchen at the Tyneside and The Deli Box Haddington, also believes strongly in the Gift Card. “I am committed to working alongside the [Council’s] Economic Development, and when I was sent the briefing for the Gift Card programme, I could see the benefits instantly. The programme adds value to my business, as it provides an additional customer service.”
Was it easy to come on board, and what does Paul think will be the benefits of the Gift Card programme? “Getting the system set up was very quick and easy,” Paul recalls. “One of the benefits of being part of this programme is being listed on the East Lothian Gift Card website, and the public can click on a direct link to our website. We can promote it at point-of-sale, on social media and through word of mouth.”
What about the wider benefits to East Lothian as a county? “The customer will be able to use the Card in more than one outlet, and the combined advertising will create greater public awareness and increase the customer spend around the county.”
Paul Kinnoch says, “I would definitely recommend the scheme to any business owner and would advise them to take up the opportunity to enhance their own business and the service they provide.”
Frances adds, “You’ve nothing to lose – just do it! If you have the [credit card] facility – and I think most businesses do – you can accept it, promote it and give it as gifts to people. The other thing is that, when big chain stores close, there can be bad press about what happens with their gift cards. But there are so many businesses involved with the East Lothian Gift Card that, if one business closes, there will always be somewhere to spend it.”
When Gemma is asked whether she would recommend a Miconex Gift Card programme to other Business Development teams or BIDs, she answers: “Absolutely! We got great support from Miconex. If we have any queries, their team is great at getting back to us straight away and helping out.
“The only challenge for us was working it out through the council finance system, but when that was sorted it was really straightforward to set up.
“I think it’s a really good thing. It’s really well-received here, our businesses are really positive about it, and they appreciate everybody coming together and the collaborative marketing, and hopefully, everyone will benefit from that as it grows as well.”
As well as the successful launch of the East Lothian Gift Card, Miconex is delighted to announce that new Gift Card programmes have recently been launched in Bridgend, Exeter, Merthyr Tydfil, Shawlands and St Albans.
Photos credited to Mark Jackson Photography
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 Mastercard 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