The Miconex Gift Card programme enables a town, city or Business Improvement District (BID) to establish a consumer gift card programme, helping to lock in additional spend. The prepaid Visa card provides a simple way for people to buy a gift for friends, family and colleagues.
Recipients of the cards can spend them at a network of local businesses including restaurants, cafés, shops, salons, attractions, leisure facilities and entertainment businesses.
The very first Gift Card in the Miconex programme was launched in December 2015, on the busy festive streets of Perth. As any town or city manager will know, it can be tricky to embark on a new retail programme so close to Christmas. Businesses have been working on Christmas plans and displays for months, and shoppers are on a mission to buy their final gifts.
However, Perth & Kinross Council and Miconex both felt strongly that this was too good an opportunity to wait until the post-New Year trade picked up. So, having successfully completed the business case in partnership with the Council, we launched a city-wide marketing campaign with huge enthusiasm and hard work – and the Perth Card was born.
Initial sales went well, and, through the first year alone, there was £45,000-worth of additional spend in the city through the Perth Card.
But what persuaded Leigh Brown, Perth City Centre Manager, to go for the Perth Card in the first place, and why did she choose Miconex to launch it?
Leigh had been researching gift vouchers for Perth but wanted something more secure and sustainable. Leigh says, “A gift card programme was something that could lock in local spend, generate revenue through the breakage programme, be a clear marketing tool, and help the independent businesses, which is one of our key remits.”
There were two other compelling benefits that would boost footfall and profits: when customers redeem the cards they spend an average of 40% on top of the card’s value, and 15% of redemptions are at businesses that the customers haven’t visited before.
Miconex was already working closely with Perth & Kinross Council, managing their City Centre marketing channels and promoting local businesses via mi Perthshire. We also had more than seven years’ experience working with towns and cities across the UK on a variety of projects. Leigh knew that we had the local knowledge, networks and infrastructure, and developing a new Perth Card would fit well with our existing expertise.
We also committed to taking care of the business side of things. Firstly, we would handle agreements with the eventual provider of the gift card technology, and secondly, we would communicate with the local businesses to explain the proposition and bring them on board. It’s a model that has proved to be successful with all of our subsequent Gift Card partners.
So we set to work researching various gift card suppliers in the UK and Europe. We came across the Presend pre-loaded Visa card and found it to be the ideal candidate. Presend is used successfully across Europe, including in over 50% of Swedish towns and cities, and has the elements that Leigh Brown was seeking. For example:
- It uses the existing Visa network so it’s easy for businesses to sign up – no new software, hardware or extensive training needed.
- It allows for detailed reporting, so managers can see how much is being spent and where.
- Businesses don’t have to redeem anything (unlike with gift vouchers) – the money goes straight to them.
- Customers find it easy to use, as it’s just like any other payment card that they simply hand over.
Once Presend had been selected as the Gift Card provider, we handled all the negotiations and contract-signing with them, leaving Leigh free to work out budget details and liaise with Council senior management. We knew at this point that this was a business model that could work in other towns, cities and BIDs.
“In terms of setting up, and getting everybody involved, Colin Munro and Richard Gray [of Miconex] took all the hard work out of that for me, which was great. They knew exactly what had to be done, they worked all the contracts and made all the negotiations with Presend, so we just had to sign the final contract. It was much easier than having to deal with lots of different companies.” Leigh Brown, Perth City Centre Manager
After that, we took care of the process of signing up the Perth businesses to the programme, including shops, restaurants and entertainment businesses. Of course, they had lots of questions – in particular they wanted to know:
- when they’d get their money (instantly, just like any Visa card)
- what they’d need to do to get started (just say yes and we’d set them up in a few minutes).
They could see the benefits right away, and more than 35 signed up as soon as they heard about it. There are now 85 businesses signed up to the Perth Card, and sales through the card are on track to top £100,000 by the end of Year 2.
Our next step was to devise a digital marketing strategy for the Perth Card, including social media and a new website. The Miconex Gift Card programme lends itself incredibly well to digital marketing, as it’s such a simple proposition to get across to customers. It’s also great for competitions, for highlighting the businesses that accept / sell the card, and for features such as “How would you spend a £100 gift card?”.
It’s also easy to cross-market with the businesses’ own social media, which opens them up to a wider audience. And because we run Perth City and mi Perthshire on social media, we’re able to create a rich marketing blend that works for every channel.
The successful launch of the Perth Card confirmed our early intent to expand into other towns/cities/BIDs. We embarked on a number of information-sharing sessions to communicate to managers the many benefits of the Gift Card programme.
Soon there was interest from the popular town of Kendal, Cumbria and from Glasgow’s cosmopolitan West End, in the form of the Byres Road & Lanes BID. These two prospects were a) distinctly different from each other and b) distinctly different from Perth. This was ideal for the programme, as it would exemplify how flexible the Miconex Gift Card scheme can be.
Kendal is an attractive town that’s popular with visitors. Why would such a town need a Gift Card scheme? Sarah Williams, manager of the town’s BID, says, “We needed something that would have long effects, be sustainable and keep the money in the town. Kendal is in a beautiful part of the country, but we have a bypass so people sometimes forget we’re here. So producing a gift card, shaped as a piece of Mint Cake, was the way to go. We also needed a programme that was measurable and achievable, so we could report on how much we’ve put into the local economy. The Kendal Card gives us all these hard-fact figures.”
One key benefit for Sarah and the Kendal BID was that the Miconex Gift Card programme can be used in multiples as well as in independent shops. In Kendal, for example, Boots, Mountain Warehouse, Booths, Beales and Pizza Express have all signed up. These businesses have their own gift cards but realised that the Kendal Card adds to their customer base rather than taking away.
“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 Miconex. We’ve continued to work with them, with them doing our social media for the Gift Card. They also came down and helped with the launch. Because they know what it’s about, it’s very easy for them to do it.” Sarah Williams, Kendal BID Manager
Kendal now has 130 retailers signed up to the Kendal Card – in a town of just 24,500 inhabitants that’s an impressive achievement.
Glasgow’s Visit West End Card is the card programme for the Byres Road & Lanes BID, which was set up in 2015 to boost trade in the area and help the businesses to compete with out-of-town shopping centres and online retailers. A gift card that can only be used in the area is an effective way to keep spend local and help people to discover new businesses. As BID Manager Deborah Murray says, “We wanted to try to keep spend local. [The card programme is] providing a platform where the West End could be seen as a real alternative to those newer out-of-town places.”
As soon as Deborah was on board, we moved quickly to get the ball rolling for the Visit West End Card. Deborah says, “We put the proposal to the board and they invited Colin Munro from Miconex to give a presentation to them. That was well-received and the in-principle agreement to go ahead was made.”
“Colin and Richard from Miconex are very experienced in what they do, and they signed up 57 businesses in two days.” Deborah Murray, Byres Road & Lanes BID Manager
Since then we’ve worked hard to support our existing Gift Card programmes and to develop new ones. We attend town/city/council/BID meetings, talking to the managers and the businesses to find out what matters to them. Then we work with them to devise Gift Card programmes that are perfect for their specific needs.
Our latest two Gift Card areas couldn’t be more different from each other – the attractive and bustling city of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and the popular and picturesque Isle of Arran on the west coast of Scotland. This demonstrates once more the flexibility of the Gift Card scheme and how it can suit virtually any shopping area.
The Visa-based local currency model seems to be as compelling in the UK as it is in Scandinavia, as there are seven more towns and cities ready to launch their Miconex Gift Card programmes:
- Cardiff, Wales
- Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
- Newport, Wales
- Elgin, Scotland
- Strabane, Northern Ireland
- Glasgow, Scotland
- Sheffield, England
We’re as excited as they are to see their Gift Cards getting launched, helping to lock in spend for their businesses and encouraging consumers to shop locally.
If you’d like to hear more about the Miconex Gift Card programme, or invite us to talk to the management team of your town, city or Business Improvement District, please do get in touch:
Managing Director, Miconex
Tel: 01738 444 376
Tel: 01738 444 376
If you’d like to chat to, and share knowledge with, our partner in the first ever Miconex Gift Card programme, you can contact:
Perth City Centre Manager / Chair of ATCM
Tel: 01738 475727