Why did Chichester want a Gift Card programme?
Colin Hicks, Chair of the Chichester BID, explains: “Chichester is doing reasonably well at the moment, but obviously there’s lots of change in the high street.
“As the Chichester BID we’re funded through a compulsory levy from the 600-plus businesses within the city walls. It’s up to us to spend that levy usefully so that the businesses continue to benefit from a good environment. So we’re always looking for ideas which are cost-neutral or even levy-neutral or profitable, so that we can be seen to be using the BID levy responsibly and doing our best to make things work better.
“That’s one of the reasons – the other is that we’re not just retail, we’re also food and drink and services, so we must provide services for people working in offices, public sector, charities, dentists, fitness studios, as well as in shops. The Gift Card is a very good way of making sure that a) money is spent locally and b) the card is not spent online: people have to go into the businesses to buy those services or those goods.
“The third reason is that the Gift Card a unifying thing. We’re finding that if one of the very well-known businesses signs up, others are saying, if they’re having it, then I’ll have it as well. So there’s that solidarity working between businesses, which is what we were really keen to see.”
How did the Gift Card programme get started?
“The way that it was put in place was very proficient,” says Colin. “It’s been pretty seamless and the quality of service from Miconex has been very good, too. Any teething problems that we’ve had, we had regular contact. And every time our BID ambassador registers a business to the Gift Card, it’s confirmed immediately by Miconex. We’ve got our own Chichester Gift Card website, which is set up as part of the deal, which means we can trade online with the cards, but we’ve also joined the Town and City Gift Cards website which groups all the cards, so we can now be part of a bigger family.”
Bringing in the businesses
Colin tells us that an interesting mix of businesses has signed up to accept the Chichester Gift Card. “As well as the multiples, there are a lot of independents, including food and drink, and we also have a dentist signed up and various others. So it’s a very flexible tool. We have been approached by a school who are interested in parents having access to the Gift Card for pocket money. When the kids go for coffee and meet their friends, it would help the parents if they had a Chichester Gift Card which was the month’s pocket money that they had to budget. People are being creative with it.”
Registering the businesses is also going well, Colin adds, “because the process is so simple. They were expecting it to be quite difficult because it’s IT, it’s technical, but they’ve been quite surprised. They swipe the card through their till and that’s it, they’re registered. They also like that that they don’t have to invest further money because we’ve invested BID levy in the scheme, and they’re already paying into the levy.
“Also, some of the multiples thought it may be difficult because they have to go to head office, but then it’s useful being part of the bigger family, because we can say to them, ‘Well, your business in Cheltenham has already signed up.’ ”
Marketing the Chichester Gift Card
Colin says, “We are selling the Gift Card with ‘You can buy anything from a smile to a cup of coffee.’ There’s a big campaign coming up, including social media, leafletting and the local press (as we have a lot of elderly customers). We’re also running a radio station for Christmas for two months, and it’s going to be advertised on there. And we did a competition where we gave away 13 Gift Cards.”
The Chichester Gift Card was implemented in October. What benefits will it bring to Chichester as a city, and to the individual businesses?
Benefits for the city
Colin believes that “the immediate benefit is that the BID is now able to pull the business community together, across sectors, so that offices now feel more part of the organisation, whereas before it looked a bit as though we were only focusing on shops. That’s been helpful.
“After three years we’re hoping the breakage will produce some income. In the meantime, because we can measure footfall across the city, we’ll be able to see where the visits are taking place, how long people are staying, and if the Gift card has an impact on dwell time. We increased dwell times by half an hour last year, and we’ll measure that for the coming year. As you know, footfall is dropping everywhere because of the internet, so we’re focused on compensating for the drop in the number of people by increasing the length of stay.
“So we’re not just working on shops, we’re working on the experience economy. That’s why we wanted the Gift Card, because you can buy a yoga session, or a visit to the dentist, or a coffee for all your friends. It’s participating in the life of the city.
“We’re lucky that some things here are free – we have a free museum, a free cathedral, so not everything has to be paid for, but when it does, it’s great to be able to use the Gift Card. The museum is also one of the distribution points because that’s where the tourist information centre is.”
Benefits for the businesses
Three owners/managers of organisations in Chichester also told us what they like about the Chichester Gift Card.
Matt Horstead, owner of high-end fashion retailer Dartagnan Menswear, believes that the Chichester Gift Card brings the city’s retailers together to work as one group. “In this economic climate,” he says, “bringing a city together to unite and encourage people to shop at bricks-and-mortar retail, rather than sitting at home online, is very important.”
Matt, whose business sells the Gift Card as well as accepting it for payment, says getting set up was straightforward. He hopes that, for all of the businesses that sell the Gift Card, being sales points will encourage their customers to stay and have a browse while they are in buying the card. He continues: “Once we have helped that customer, we hope to welcome them back in again, and build on that relationship. That’s the key – it’s not just a one-off opportunity, it’s to try and attain as many customers going forward as we can. The marketing has mainly been done by the BID, too, which takes a lot of the hard work out of it.”
Creations Hair & Beauty
Emma, who works in Business Development at Creations, a successful hair and beauty salon, warmly welcomed the Chichester Gift Card. Emma has good connections with the Chichester BID and wanted to sell, as well as accept, the Gift Card. “It should bring people through our door that are possibly not clients in the first place. It was easy to get set up, and it helps everyone to work together in the city and keep money in the local economy.”
Chichester Tourist Information Centre
Emma Stubbington is Visitor Services Supervisor at Chichester Tourist Information Centre, which is based
in the city’s Novium Museum. She explains why she wanted the Centre to join the programme. “We want to help keep money in Chichester and it makes sense that, as a tourist information centre, we sell and accept the card, because we promote businesses, restaurants and accommodation in the city. When the BID team said, ‘Do you want to join?’ I said, ‘Why would you not want to join?’ ”
Was it easy to get set up and started? “It was so easy,” Emma recalls. “Marc [from Miconex] phoned to give over-the-phone training and it’s so simple to use.”
What does Emma think the benefits will be for Chichester Tourist Information and for the city in general? “We often get asked if we have gift vouchers and we can now sell the Gift Card as a gift voucher for us or for anywhere else in the city. And we will hopefully see an increase in visitors coming in to buy the card and spending in our shop whilst they’re there. I think it will make people think about shopping in the city a lot more.” Customers have been positive about the Gift Card, too. As Emma says: “We’ve had people say it’s a great idea, especially for the person who has everything at Christmas!”
Any advice from Chichester?
When Colin Hicks is asked whether he has any advice for other BID/town managers considering a Gift Card programme, he answers: “We would absolutely recommend it; it’s a great scheme, and it’s pretty seamless, it’s a well-oiled machine. It’s a simple scheme, providing you can assemble the necessary cash to pay for the basics. We’re expecting early benefits; we’re not expecting any criticisms. We would recommend it to anyone; we’re very happy with it.”
When asked if he’d recommend that other local businesses get involved with the Gift Card, Matt from Dartagnan replies, “One hundred per cent. It’s early days at the moment, the word is still to spread, but it’s something to build on and something for everybody there to join forces.”
Emma from Creations agrees: “Yes, I’d absolutely recommend that other businesses join the programme.”
Emma from Chichester Tourist Information Centre adds: “It’s only got benefits; there are no negative elements to it, so I’d say definitely join it!”
Future Gift Card developments
As well as the successful launch of the Chichester Gift Card, Miconex is delighted to announce that new Gift Card programmes have recently been launched in Bath, Cambridge, Wolverhampton, Edinburgh and East Lothian. And four more cities, towns or districts will soon be starting Gift Card programmes in partnership with us:
If you’d like to increase customer footfall and engage more strongly with the businesses in your town, city or BID area, it’s easy to join our growing number of Gift Card programmes. Contact us online, email [email protected] or phone 01738 444376 and we’ll be happy to talk you through the possibilities.
Chichester is a beautiful and historical city that dates back to Roman times when it was the headquarters of the Second Legion in 47AD. Since then it has undergone many transformations, becoming a busy Medieval centre and later a thriving Georgian city based on sheep and the wool industry. Although Chichester is a small city, it has over 260 shops and the fourth most resilient high street in the UK. With the South Downs to the north, a harbour to the south and lovely beaches nearby, it’s a desirable place to live, work and shop.