Two Irish towns are banking on technology to drive local economy recovery with the introduction of gift card programmes. Ballinrobe and Drogheda are the first towns in the west and east of Ireland to introduce , with the Love Drogheda Gift Card and Ballinrobe’s Lakes Gift card going live in November.
Town and City Gift Card programmes are active across Northern Ireland in Belfast, the Causeway Coast and Glens, Strabane, and Enniskillen. Cards are branded to the town or city and work like local currency. Recipients of the gift card can redeem it with registered businesses in that place, encouraging residents to shop local and locking in spend to the local economy.
The Town and City Gift Cards programme from Scottish tech firm Miconex picked up the award for best use of prepaid at the Incentive Awards in September, and over 50 towns and cities in the UK and Ireland now have programmes.
In Drogheda, Trevor Connolly, Chief Executive Officer at Drogheda BID said that they wanted to identify the project that would have the greatest impact for businesses affected by lockdown in the town:
“Restrictions in the town have hit our hospitality, clothing and retail businesses hard. I’ve seen that gift card programmes work to lock in local spend. Back when I worked for Monaghan, over €2.7 million was spent through the gift card. But this was paper based scheme which was really admin heavy; every voucher was hand stamped and embossed, there were 5-6 people working on it. We needed a programme that was easier to administer and that’s what we have with the Love Drogheda card.
“For every half a million euros we can keep local in Drogheda through the gift card programme, we can protect 15 jobs. With 40,000 residents and a hinterland of 80,000, the potential for the Love Drogheda Gift Card is significant.
“A single retailer gift card can be used with one place. With the Love Drogheda Gift Card you can feed your family, you can heat your home, you can buy your Christmas outfit or you can treat yourself. It means more choice and it’s a secure way to give a gift card too.
“We’re giving people an opportunity to support their town. Drogheda has been the fastest growing town in Ireland and we have a high proportion of professionals who are working from home and shopping locally instead of in the cities. The shop local sentiment is getting stronger because residents understand the importance of supporting their local businesses.
“Businesses have been really positive about the introduction of the card. Our hospitality sector is an example of how our businesses have pivoted, offering takeaway and putting immense effort into the packaging and presentation to give that restaurant dining experience. Then we’ve had businesses investing in tables for outdoor dining.
“We’re on level 5 restrictions in Ireland right now and many businesses are operating from behind closed doors, but the Drogheda Gift Card gives the flexibility to shop locally online.
“We estimate that up to 80% of sales for the Drogheda Gift Card could come through employee rewards. In Ireland you can give employees a small benefit of up to €500 each year tax free as a gift card. With many staff Christmas parties being cancelled this year, hopefully this is money that we’ll see distributed to employees in a different way through the Love Drogheda Gift Card.”
In Ballinrobe, they are also making corporate gifting integral to the strategic introduction of the gift card which can be spent in the town, and in neighbouring towns and villages. Ballinrobe Community Development Council (CDC) and Ballinrobe Enterprise Organisation (BEO) are behind the initiative after hearing about the success of the Enniskillen Gift Card, and also plan to promote the card to Ballinrobe diaspora living overseas:
“At the outset, we talked to the major employers in Ballinrobe who were enthusiastic to support a gift card scheme as a way to reward their staff. With their support, we pushed ahead,” said Richard Burke, Chairperson of BEO:
“The more we talked to businesses, the more we realised the benefit of including Cong, Clonbur and the surrounding villages with the scheme, and it became the Lakes Gift Card to represent the lakes of Lough Mask, Lough Corrib and Lough Carra that surround the towns.
“Since the pandemic, people are starting to stay in their local area more, we’ve seen more staycations and residents supporting their local pubs and restaurants as much as restrictions allow. The beauty of the gift card is that people can use it in businesses across Ballinrobe and surrounding areas. It’s tempting to think you’re competing with other towns but we’ll benefit more by teaming together.
“Ballinrobe diaspora are living all over the world, and they are still really supportive of their town. This year, we hope they’ll buy a Lakes Gift Card for their family still living at home and support their local town too. The gift card can be purchased online and delivered straight to Ireland with a message.”
“A lot of recovery efforts are focused on the big cities, smaller towns like ours can get left behind,” said chairperson of Ballinrobe CDC Pat Donnellan. “Shop local is becoming more important all around the country and that’s something we’re building on here with the Lakes Gift Card. We can’t just wait for magic ideas to come from the government, we have to help ourselves. Whether you’re an employee, and employer, you live here or you live away, we all have a responsibility to support our town and I’m confident that Ballinrobe will pull together to make the Lakes Gift Card a success.
“Christmas is a crucial time for merchants, the usual events we would normally hold in the town like the Christmas light switch on can’t go ahead this year. Instead, we’ll be focusing all of our efforts on the Lakes Gift Card to support our businesses.”
Colin Munro, managing director of Miconex said: “It’s inspiring to see the innovation from Drogheda and Ballinrobe in how they are approaching the introduction of their gift card programmes, particularly in their approach to corporate giving. Through technology, we can drive local economic recovery in a meaningful and impactful way.”
For more information about Town & City Gift Card programs please contact Chris Parker-Brads, [email protected]