Over 30 businesses in Hereford have already signed up to a new city gift card scheme which will launch in early September. The Hereford Gift Card is a local gift card that can be spent across the city in both national and independent shops, restaurants, cafés, salons, and other customer facing venues, and is the latest initiative from Hereford Business Improvement District to support businesses in the city and drive local economic recovery.
The new gift card for Hereford is a prepaid MasterCard that can be used in the same way as a debit card. It is free for Hereford BID businesses to register to accept the Hereford Gift Card as an additional payment method. Businesses are encouraged to sign up in August, in time for the programme’s launch.
The design of Hereford’s new gift card will feature artwork from a local artist, including Hereford landmarks like the cathedral and the River Wye. It will also feature the Hereford City Life brand, the consumer facing brand developed to showcase the best of the city, and the city life, country living positioning. Once launched, the Hereford Gift Card will be available to buy from the Black and White House Museum in High Town, the Tourist Information Centre on St Owen Street, and online.
Mike Truelove is the Chief Executive of Hereford BID and said: “The Hereford Gift Card is a tangible means for us to support all types of businesses in Hereford, locking money into the local economy that would have been spent outside of Hereford, bringing new money into the city, and providing a new income stream for merchants. It was always our plan to introduce a gift card for Hereford, but the pandemic accelerated the need.
“We have an array of independent businesses in Hereford, alongside our nationals, rich heritage and a wealth of shopping areas, like historic Church Street and Old Market. With the Hereford Gift Card, we’re bringing these diverse businesses together under one local gift card. Working together, we are stronger. The gift card is a great unifier for Hereford.
“There are 500 BID businesses in Hereford, and we hope to welcome 100 of those businesses as registered merchants for the gift card by the launch date. All types of businesses are eligible to receive the gift card as an additional payment method, including retail, hospitality, leisure and services. There are no costs for businesses to accept the card and it’s as easy to receive as a debit or credit card payment.”
ONS data shows that whilst there are green shoots for UK businesses, footfall has yet to return to pre pandemic levels. In the week to 31 July 2021, overall retail footfall was 77% of its equivalent week in 2019, with retail footfall amongst the highest in the West Midlands and the East of England (81%), but amongst the lowest in the East Midlands (75%).
Retail sales increased by 0.5% between May and June, up 9.5% on February 2020, driven by increased sales in food stores (up 4.2%). Non-food stores, including clothing, household goods, and furniture experienced a 1.7% decline. Online sales decreased to 26.7% in June 2021, down from 28.4% in May 2021, as consumers returned to physical stores.
One business that has signed up to receive the Hereford Gift Card as payment is The Hereford Music Shop on Commercial Road, an independent music shop which sells new and vintage instruments, accessories, and AV hire services, with its own attached music school. Owner Ben Turner, who is also a board member of Hereford BID, said:
“The pandemic has been tough but not terminal for us as a business. The grants from the government helped tide us over and made it viable to continue trading. It’s incredibly important for us business owners to show their support for each other, and the gift card is one way we can do that. When a customer asks me what to get for little Charlie for their birthday, I can recommend the gift card. That gift card might get spent at my shop, or it might be spent with another gift card business, and that’s fine. Community is everything and by working together we can create a cyclical economy and keep spend here in Hereford.
“We’ve lost visitors to other shopping destinations over the years and we need something to encourage people to come back. The Hereford Gift Card will do that. People will receive a card, and they’ll come into Hereford to spend it. As a business owner, joining the Hereford Gift Card was a no-brainer for me. It’s another method of receiving payment from customers, and I’d be mad not to take part. It took me one minute to put the £1 test transaction through and that’s it, no new equipment, no training, no costs to me. I urge all business owners to get involved.”
The Hereford Gift Card is part of the award winning Town and City Gift Card programme from fintech Miconex and is the first local gift card of its kind in Herefordshire. Over 60 Town and City Gift Card schemes are in operation around the UK and Ireland, including in Gloucester and Wolverhampton. Managing director of Miconex Colin Munro said the Hereford Gift Card has many benefits for business owners:
“76% of people have purchased a gift card in the last 3 years. The Hereford Gift Card will give people an attractive alternative to single retailer cards, and a gift card that supports Hereford. Data shows that the typical amount spent on a gift card is £34.56, and consumers will spend up to 65% more on top when they redeem the gift card. Not only that, but they will be more experimental too, trying out new businesses they may never have visited. Joining the Hereford Gift Card is free for businesses and is a route to new customers and additional revenue. We hope to see many more businesses get on board with this exciting project.”