It’s a great present for friends and family - this is the obvious one!
Cheltenham, known as the “cultural centre of the Cotswolds”, is a busy, lively town in Gloucestershire. With stylish places to eat, drink and stay, and offering a wide range of festivals all year round, it’s a popular destination for visitors. Cheltenham has a rich history and heritage, having been established over 1200 years ago, and its beautiful old buildings sit side by side with the many modern developments happening throughout the town. The town has a wide selection of independent businesses as well as multiples/chains, and several distinct shopping districts. Cheltenham is the first town or city in the south of England to implement a Gift Card scheme with Miconex.
Cheltenham BID Manager Kevan Blackadder explains, “The idea was to have a scheme which promoted shopping in the town. When we first discussed options, there was a feeling that a discount card could be well-received, but there are so many discount offers and regular sales. So there was a feeling among our board, which includes retailers, that we wanted to do something different. The real driver with adopting the Cheltenham Gift Card is that, by selling or buying this card you’re ensuring that the money spent will stay in Cheltenham.”
Kevan continues, “Another great thing about the Gift Card is a real flexibility. You give or receive a gift card, and historically it can only be used in one store, and we’ve all received a gift card for Christmas from a popular high-street store, and your heart sinks, because you’re thinking, ‘Will I actually find something there that I want?’ With the Cheltenham Gift Card, there’s a wide range of businesses in Cheltenham and it gives you that great flexibility. Also you don’t have to use it all in one go, and you’ve got a full 12 months to spend it. People who receive a card could have one major spend on it, but then they might have a few pounds left over that they might use for a coffee or drinks at a bar.”
“It was quite straightforward,” Kevan recalls. “We heard about what Miconex offer and we were excited that we’d be the first town in the south of England to offer it – that was a real incentive.
“The team from Miconex explained things very straightforwardly and, once we decided to go ahead, there was detail to look at, in contracts and so on, but that was all discussed very fairly and Miconex were flexible to change on detail.”
Asked about bringing the businesses on board, Kevan says, “The only real issue was convincing them that it was as easy as it is! They’re very busy people and they assumed that this would take up a lot of time. But what was really positive was that Colin and Richard from Miconex came down to Cheltenham with a mission to sign up 50 businesses over a couple of days, and they achieved that. Our operations manager and I shadowed them to see how it was done, and then continued to pick up other businesses afterwards.
“Once we’d got the businesses to understand how straightforward it was – and it literally does take less than a minute to get them involved – they came across.”
In Cheltenham, there’s a good mix of multiples and independent businesses accepting the Gift Card. The multiples include retailers such as House of Fraser, Yo Sushi, Cath Kidston, WH Smith, Lakeland, Hotel Chocolat and Neal’s Yard. Kevan says that the fact that these businesses have their own retail software – and a Head Office to liaise with – isn’t a barrier to accepting the Gift Card. “If people have been given the Cheltenham Gift Card,” he explains, “they’ll spend it in Cheltenham, and that’s money the nationals could lose if they go to another shop instead of your one. So they do really see the value of it.”
The Cheltenham Gift Card was implemented in August 2017. What benefits will it bring to Cheltenham as a town, and to the individual businesses?
“I think the main benefit will be that it’s a really useful present,” Kevan says. “And we’re pleased with the timing, because we’ve had our launch and now we’re going to give it another big marketing push for Christmas. It’ll be very useful for those last-minute presents! Buying a Cheltenham Gift Card is perfect, because with a Gift Card you can be sure that they’ll spend it on something they actually want rather than something they feel they have to buy. And we’ve got a good mixture of shops, bars, restaurants involved.
“It’s also perfect for wedding lists. So if you’re sending out invitations, instead of a gift list you could say, ‘We’d like Cheltenham Gift Cards.’ The fantastic thing about that is that they could end up with so much money [on the cards] they could buy something really special. Or it gives them so much flexibility they could buy things for the home, across a range of businesses. Also parents might want to buy them for kids’ parties. If you’re getting invited to lots of birthday parties, and you don’t actually know what the child actually wants, buy Cheltenham Gift Cards and get your kids to take one along!
“So we’re going to do a bit of a marketing message around those two ideas as well.”
Kevan and his team have already delivered some great PR for the card, in a launch article in Gloucestershire Live, in a follow-up Gloucestershire Live article, on local website Punchline and on the Cheltenham BID website.
Three owners/managers of quite diverse businesses in Cheltenham also told us what they liked about the Cheltenham Gift Card.
Wild Beer craft beer bar and restaurant Mat Tilley, manager of Wild Beer, which both accepts and sells the Gift Cards, says: “We jumped at the opportunity to get involved. It’s simple to set up using Internet Explorer, rather than having to have extra, bulky machinery in-house. It’s easy to use too, which is great.”
Why was Mat keen to get involved? “As a retailer of the card it can bring in people who wouldn’t necessarily come to a craft beer bar and restaurant,” he explains. “So you’re widening your horizons; it gives you a marketing pull. If people are into their food and drink, it’s great because it’s not just a [shop] card, and it’s not putting money in an envelope that can be spent anywhere else outside Cheltenham, it’s making sure that money can be spent in the businesses that are involved.”
“I think it also gives people a sense of pride in the area they’re involved in and that they work in. I think it has that community aspect and feel to it, as you’re actually doing something to help the place that you live in, and it can only grow and get better from that.”
Fellow business operator Sue Clingan, of The Ultimate Party Shop, was also keen from the start – the shop also sells and accepts the Gift Card. “I jumped on it, because I really believe in promoting local businesses and the ‘shop local’ ethos,” she says. “This card encourages people to participate and interact with local traders rather than going online to spend money with companies that you’ve got no idea who they are, what their principles are, what their products are like until they arrive at your house. As a seller, I also thought it would encourage new customers into my shop as well as advertising the card to current customers that we already have.”
How did Sue find it getting started? “It was really simple. I was a little concerned as to how it would interact with our payment facility, whether the money would come into our account and we’d have to pay it back out, but it’s all done so smoothly, just like taking a [standard] Visa card payment.”
Sue loves the fact that the Cheltenham Gift Card has a wide appeal: “It has such a variety of places that it can be spent, so it’s suitable for everybody. Whoever uses it, whether they’re coming into our store or not to spend it, it is going to be of massive benefit. It’s brilliant; I think it’s a fabulous scheme. I hope they roll it out in lots of other towns as well.”
Margaret Cavanagh, co-owner of the Cheltenham franchise of national retailer Neal’s Yard Remedies, says, “We think it’s a really good idea, because it’s going to encourage people to come into the town centre. It’s also going to unite the different areas of Cheltenham, because Montpellier [District] can be a little bit out of the loop, but if we’re included, people can say, ‘I’ll go and shop at Neal’s Yard Remedies, I’ll go and shop in Montpellier…’ Anything that gets people to walk all around Cheltenham, and think about Cheltenham, and come into the shops, is a good thing. And I’m including myself in that!”
Asked about the sign-up process, Margaret says, “Miconex came and set it up for us; it was very simple.”
When Kevan Blackadder is asked whether he has any advice for other BID/town managers considering a Gift Card programme, he answers: “You can easily buy your card on the Cheltenham Gift Card website, but the administration of it, the sending out of the cards, is down to you. So my advice would be to make sure you have the admin support in place first.” He adds, ”There’s been an understanding among our businesses of ‘Why wouldn’t you offer this?’ Once they learned how straightforward it is, they quickly understood it.”
Mat from Wild Beer agrees, advising: “Do it! There’s no reason not to. It’s easy to set up the system, it’s only going to be a positive thing for the area, it’s only going to help our community and each other.” Margaret from Neal’s Yard Remedies advises: “Go for it! The more businesses that are on it, and part of the group, the more people will use it.”
Sue from the Ultimate Party Shop adds, “Absolutely give it a go. It’s a win-win. You can’t go wrong. You’ll have more people coming into your shop, especially if you’re selling them, and then you’ll also have more people coming in to spend with you, because you’re being advertised free of charge by the BID, to promote your business as one of the companies that will accept it. That will bring customers into your shop as well. I can’t see that there’s any downside to it, to be honest with you!”
Following the success of Cheltenham’s Gift Card launch, as well as successful programmes in Perth, Kendal, Glasgow’s West End and the Isle of Arran, Miconex is delighted to announce that nine more cities and towns will soon be starting Gift Card programmes in partnership with us:
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