It’s a great present for friends and family - this is the obvious one!
Enniskillen is the county town of Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Nestled between the upper and lower sections of Lough Erne, it’s a unique island town with a long, bustling main street – and moorings for boats! Enniskillen has a rich mix of independent shops and retailers, and numerous places to eat, drink and stay, making it a popular destination for visitors. Among the jewels in its rich history and heritage is Enniskillen Castle and its museums.
Enniskillen is the first town or city in Northern Ireland to implement a Gift Card scheme with Miconex.
Enniskillen BID Manager Noelle McAloon explains, “When we were writing the business plan, we wanted a programme with tangible outputs. I’ve worked with businesses for a number of years, and that can be a difficult thing to get. You can say, ‘This scheme will help with business confidence,’ but it’s how you measure that. When we were doing our consultation for the business plan, the idea was one of loyalty. Nobody had yet mentioned a Gift Card, but we were trying to think of incentives during the year to encourage people to spend in town, such as a voucher system.
“We wanted to increase footfall, and we also wanted to increase marketing. One of our three themes is ‘Boost Business’ (the other two are ‘Entice Customers’ and ‘Enhance Experience’). So when I had the conversation with Colin Munro from Miconex while writing the business plan, what Colin was saying about the Gift Card programme just made sense, so I got the concept of loyalty into our plan, in order to boost the businesses in the town.”
“When Colin knew the BID was going through, he got back in touch and came to Enniskillen to tell us more about the Gift Card Programme. The BID was new, and a few of the board members had said, ‘Maybe this year we’ll just get ourselves established and we’ll look at this next year.’ But Colin and I had a two-hour face-to-face meeting, and by the end of it I was completely sold. I thought, this has to happen. I loved that it was so clean: the businesses got their money instantly as you would with a Visa card. There wouldn’t be any problems with losing vouchers or coupons. And I liked the concept that we could brand it. So the Gift Card was ticking all our themes. And when Colin talked about the portal and the level of information that we have access to, it was music to my ears. It’s a wonderful programme and the businesses will benefit, but from an administration and accountability point of view, having all that information is just wonderful for me.
“So I suggested that we get it in this year and get all the teething problems sorted, and make it great in 2018. But it transpired to be great in 2017, which is even better!
“I had a real confidence after meeting Colin – he really knows his stuff. And I’m so glad we went with Miconex. I did price others, but Miconex’s information came through before I asked for it, but with other companies, I was chasing and chasing them, trying to get prices out of them! So that was one of the other reasons we went with Miconex.
“We got our business plan for the BID voted through and we took it from there.”
Was it easy to get started? “It was very easy,” replies Noelle. “We reviewed the contracts thoroughly and Colin was able to answer any questions we had, and he had produced some really good documentation. The website [that Miconex set up] is wonderful, too.”
Asked about bringing the businesses on board, Noelle says, “As a BID we’re quite new, but we have had a really positive engagement from our businesses from the start. Colin and Richy from Miconex signed up 99 businesses in the two or three days they were here doing the initial set-up! We now have 112 signed up to the Enniskillen Gift Card. I am delighted with that. Even since Christmas we’ve had a few businesses saying that, although they didn’t sign up to it initially, they’ve seen what it can do and would love to come on board.”
In Enniskillen, there’s a good mix of multiples and independent businesses accepting the Gift Card. The multiples include retailers such as Dunnes Stores, Boots, Easons the book and magazine retailer, DV8 the fashion retailer, Little Wing Pizzeria and Cara Pharmacy & Beauty. But 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, as the Cards are simply pre-paid Visa cards which operate on the stores’ existing machines.
Sales of the Enniskillen Gift Card reached a staggering £27,000-worth within the first month. How did the BID team go about promoting it, both to the businesses and the public? One of the secrets of Noelle’s success was Leanne, the Gift Card ambassador, who went out and about chatting to the businesses, giving information, answering queries and building engagement. Another great idea was the Facebook marketing campaign, Christmas Doors of Enniskillen, a special countdown to Christmas that showcased Enniskillen and allowed tie-ins with the new Gift Card. Some cards were also given as prizes to kids at the Christmas Lights switch-on. The local papers liked taking photos of the places where the card is being sold, and there was a hugely popular offer of a free box of biscuits with every £50 gift card sold!
The Enniskillen Gift Card was implemented in November 2017. What benefits is it bringing to Enniskillen as a city, and to the individual businesses?
Noelle says that the benefits are being felt already. “The money has to be spent in Enniskillen, and if the town is doing well, everyone does well. By locking in that money, that’s the benefit. It is linking businesses together, too. They feel more connected as a community. And everyone loves the design of the Card, with the outline of the castle. There’s a sense of ‘We live here and love it.’ ”
Two owners/managers of businesses in Enniskillen also told us what they liked about the Enniskillen Gift Card.
DV8 fashion retailer
Kristina Nixon, manager of DV8, a nationwide fashion retail store, says: “Through Enniskillen Gift Card advertising, we’re named as an ‘accepter’ of the card; that helps with our marketing. And because the cards go out to a lot of local businesses – they use it as an incentive, a bonus for Christmas, etc – that’s been brilliant, as it’s resulted in more sales for us.”
Kristina adds, “It brings more people to our town centre. We’re competing with a shopping centre which is two minutes’ walk from town centre, so this benefits the whole town centre by bringing more people to shop with us.” She adds that her customers have been giving great feedback too: “Anybody using the gift card has said what a good idea it is. People who’ve got it through a Christmas bonus think it's great getting £25 from their boss, as they can spend it wherever they want.”
The set-up was easy, too, as Kristina explains: “It seemed like a great idea so we got authorisation from our Head Office and signed up. It was so straightforward; it was done in a matter of minutes. The process was so easy – Miconex came and set it up on our machines, and there was no disruption to our processes in-store, no hassle at all. It was brilliant.”
Why was Kristina keen to sign up to the Gift Card programme in the first place? “It’s really good for the town centre, as it brings much more custom to our doors. It just made sense to get involved!”
Fellow business operator Joanna Patrick, of Little Wing Pizzeria, agrees: “It’s about being part of the community, doing something that everybody is doing. It makes it easier for everyone who is wanting to come out and spend money; if they have the card they have the option to spend it here with ourselves.
“It’ll definitely keep more people in town. If everyone receives one of these cards, there’ll be more shoppers about, as they get more and more popular.”
How did Joanna find it getting started? “It was very easy. Someone came in and just swiped a card on our machine once, and after that it was no problem with every other transaction.”
When Noelle McAloon is asked whether she has any advice for other BID/town managers considering a Gift Card programme, she answers: “Do it, because it’s a really wonderful thing in terms of promoting loyalty. Build in some time to test it, get bank accounts up and running, sign contracts, get your social media in place, etc. And if you have questions, everyone from Miconex is helpful and knowledgeable.”
Kristina from DV8 agrees: “Definitely sign up for it! You have to get on board with everything that can help your business. It’s just a straightforward business decision – you’d be silly not to.”
Joanna from Little Wing Pizzeria adds: “Definitely go for it, because it’ll keep all your locals shopping in your town, and they won’t go anywhere else. It’s definitely worthwhile.”
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 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