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Case study- Joanne Hynes Total Health Pharmacy

Joanne Hynes is the owner of Joanne Hynes Total Health Pharmacy in Ballinrobe, and is part of the Lakes Gift Card. In this case study, we hear about the impact of the Lakes Gift Card on Joanne's business- both accepting the gift card as payment, and giving it to staff as corporate rewards and incentives.

The Lakes Gift Card launched in November 2020 and can be spent with around 100 businesses across the Lake District areas of Ballinrobe, Cong and Clonbur. By November 2021 over €254,000 of Lakes Gift Cards had been sold, with over €190,000 of that quickly redeemed with local businesses. One of the businesses which accepts The Lakes Gift Card as payment is Total Health Pharmacy in Ballinrobe:

Joanne Hynes is the owner of Joanne Hynes Total Health Pharmacy in Ballinrobe, County Mayo:

How do you use the Lakes Gift Card in your organisation?

“Total Health is a local pharmacy in Ballinrobe, I grew up in the town and my viewpoint is that if I don’t go into the local shops they might close, and how would I feel then. In Ireland, we can give staff up to €500 as a reward or benefit each year, tax free, as long as it’s not in cash, so the only option is a gift card. I give my staff the Lakes Gift Card and it is so flexible. If you give an employee a meal voucher, it’s a nice idea but it expects them to do something. With the Lakes Gift Card, staff are not obliged to spend it at a certain place, and they can use it on their regular groceries, day to day essentials like petrol or on a little treat for themselves.

“I strongly believe that we all need to take responsibility to support small businesses because if we don’t, they close their doors. We need to support each other. Talking to other business owners, and this is their feeling too. Rather than give an employee a voucher for a large multinational, they can show their support for the area instead. It gives you a good feeling and that sense of local pride.”

Have you used other gift cards or incentives in the past?

“Because I’ve always been keen to support local businesses, one year I went and got a voucher for 10 different businesses in Ballinrobe and gave staff an envelope stuffed with these vouchers. When the Lakes Gift Card was introduced it made it so much easier to support local businesses. I was delighted not to have to traipse around all the stores to get the envelopes of paper vouchers and I really appreciate that the Lakes Gift Card is keeping money in the local area. The Lakes Gift Card makes cash and paper vouchers unnecessary. I think it’s the greatest programme and I felt happier giving the Lakes Gift Cards to staff than any of the previous methods I’ve used.”

What was the reaction of staff to the Lakes Gift Card?

“Staff were happy with the Lakes Gift Card. One gift card is much easier for them than carrying around lots of paper vouchers, which they might leave at home and not have when they need them. It’s far easier to put a Lakes Gift Card in a purse or wallet and use it as it’s needed like a debit card. There’s a real sense of community in Ballinrobe and surrounding areas, and that goes for staff too.”

Have you used the Lakes Gift Card in any other ways?

“We also accept the Lakes Gift Card as payment and allow it to be used on absolutely anything. We find that people redeeming their Lakes Gift Cards with us tend to use it in one of two ways, as a treat for themselves on something like perfume, on their day to day items like toiletries or even their prescription. We use the QR code on the back of the card to check how much people have on their Lakes Gift Card and put it through like a regular card payment.

“As a business owner that also accepts gift cards, there are certain ones that are quite expensive to receive as a business. I’d never turn them down, but I’m not delighted to receive them. The refreshing thing about the Lakes Gift Card is that there are no fees for me to accept it as a payment, other than the normal merchant processing fee that you pay on all card transactions.”

What would you say to other employers in Ireland thinking of rewarding their staff with a local gift card?

“When you choose a local gift card, like the Lakes Gift Card, there is always something for your staff to spend their reward on. It’s easy to imagine that we know what staff want as a reward, but the reality is often different. They might end up just using their card on their groceries, and maybe that takes the burden off the finances for that month. The Lakes Gift Card covers lots of areas, which is ideal if you have staff that are all from different places.

“The thing to remember is that we’re all people and we have to pull together for the benefit of the community. I get the Lakes Gift Card redeemed at my business, but even if they were only ever redeemed at other businesses in the area, as long as someone is benefiting then we all benefit as a collective community. Maybe the Lakes Gift Cards are redeemed at a restaurant down the road, or at a boutique, those business owners are then able to employ people locally, who in turn spend with other merchants. It’s creating a circular economy.

“Everyone has suffered so much during the pandemic. If we don’t mind ourselves locally, who else is going to?”

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