A new Lakes Gift Card will be launched in November as part of the drive in Ballinrobe, Cong, Clonbur and the surrounding villages to encourage local spend and keep money locked into the local economy.
Ballinrobe Community Development Council (CDC) and Ballinrobe Enterprise Organisation (BEO) are behind the new Lakes Gift Card, which can be spent with over 70 registered businesses in Ballinrobe and surrounding areas. The gift card is a prepaid Mastercard, and works like local currency, encouraging people to shop locally and locking money into the area.
The technology for the gift card programme is provided by Scottish tech firm Miconex. Ballinrobe joins Drogheda as the first two towns in the east and west of Ireland to have Town and City Gift Cards from Miconex. There are Town and City Gift Card schemes across Northern Ireland; Ennsikillen, Belfast, Strabane and the Causeway Coast and Glens.
“It was business owner Martin Murphy who came up with the idea of having a gift card for the town,” said chairperson of Ballinrobe CDC Pat Donnellan. “We were looking at paper and low tech versions, but Enniskillen put us in touch with Miconex. Enniskillen’s gift card has been operating since 2017 and over £150,000 has been spent through the programme since then. We liked the ease of use of the card for customers and businesses compared to other suppliers.
“Shop local is becoming more important all around the country,” said Pat Donnellan. “Since the last recession, we’ve learnt that rural communities can take longer to bounce back. Government recovery campaigns are often focused on the cities, but we don’t want to wait around for magic ideas to come to us. The Lakes Gift Card is us, as a collection of towns, helping ourselves. Residents, employees, employers, we are all stakeholders who are invested in the prosperity of our towns and it has been heartening to see the support for the gift card so far.”
Ballinrobe CDC and BEO have been working with employers in the area on the launch of the card, and also plan to promote it to Ballinrobe diaspora said Richard Burke, Chairperson of BEO:
“Rewarding their staff with a town based gift card was something employers in the area were keen to support, but through these conversations we began to see that the gift card would have more impact if it could be used across Cong, Clonbur and surrounding villages too. Making the gift card into the Lakes Gift Card to represent the lakes of Lough Mask, Lough Corrib and Lough Carra has widened its appeal for employers and their employees. By bringing our towns together, we are stronger.
“We have Ballinrobe diaspora living in Chicago, New York, Canada and even closer to home in Dublin. Even though they’re living away from the town, they’re still engaged in what we’re doing here and have a love for the town. A Lakes Gift Card is a way they can give a gift to family still living in Ballinrobe, and show their support for their hometown at the same time, buying the card online and having it delivered straight back home with a personal message.”
Business owner Martin Murphy said the Lakes Gift Card will provide much needed support for local shops:
“The pandemic has brought out a great community spirit in the town. Ballinrobe CDC has been out doing voluntary work, shopping for people who couldn’t get out. The timing is perfect to introduce a gift card, it’s a way to show support for local businesses and give something back to the community. It’s a fabulous quality card.
“We’re lucky in that we were allowed to open during the lockdown as an essential shop. I love coming to work, I’ve been here running the shop since I was 16 but it was stressful in the first few months as we got used to the new regulations. Customers have been fantastic though, everyone is wearing masks and social distancing.
“We’re approaching the Christmas period. A good Christmas gets you through January and February. This year though, I see more people doing their shopping locally instead of heading to Galway and with the card they can spend in businesses across the area. It’s brilliant to see employers getting behind the scheme too.”
Colin Munro, managing director of Miconex agrees, saying: “Buying a gift card locks spend into the local economy. Cards purchased for Christmas ensure a good quarter 1 trading period because most will be redeemed in January through March, traditionally the quietest months for businesses.
“It is fantastic to see Ballinrobe working alongside its local towns on a collaborative effort to proactively drive local economic recovery and to build on the community spirit and shop local sentiment that exists in the area. Through collaboration and technology, we can create meaningful and impactful solutions for the recovery of our towns.”