One of the most innovative uses of local gift cards as local currency is the East Ayrshire Gift Card. Read about how East Ayrshire supported families...
Case study- the East Ayrshire Gift Card
Background to the East Ayrshire Gift Card The East Ayrshire Gift Card is a joint initiative between the local council and the Kilmarnock Business Associati
Background to the East Ayrshire Gift Card
The East Ayrshire Gift Card is a joint initiative between the local council and the Kilmarnock Business Association. Over £250,000 of East Ayrshire Gift Cards were sold in 2021. As well as consumer sales, the East Ayrshire Gift Card has been used by East Ayrshire Council as part of a support care package campaign, allowing families to redeem disbursed funds with dignity at local businesses.
Tracy Murray is Town Centre Regeneration Officer for East Ayrshire Council and told us more about the launch, development and future plans for the East Ayrshire Gift Card.
What research did you conduct to find a gift card solution and what were the key elements you were looking for?
“Initially, we were looking for a solution to help us to drive footfall in East Ayrshire through customers buying the gift card, locking in spend locally and encouraging customers to shop in East Ayrshire.
As well as the consumer side, we were quickly able to see the wider uses of the card with organisations like Ayrshire College using the gift card to support students experiencing financial hardship and various departments of East Ayrshire Council using the gift card in its initiatives.”
How was the idea of The East Ayrshire Gift Card received by merchants? How did you onboard them?
“They were really enthusiastic. Because of the pandemic, businesses were sometimes tricky to get hold of, so it was often a case of trying to contact them through calls, or Facebook to let them know about the scheme and get them signed up. We were able to bring businesses on board quite quickly, launching with 80 businesses in August 2020.
It really surprised us at the time at the type of businesses that wanted to be a part of the East Ayrshire Gift Card, like a local tyre centre but when we look at the redemptions we can see that people really make use of the variety of places they can spend their gift card.
We’ve had redemptions at places you’d expect like cafés, clothes stores and gift shops but also a hardware store, an opticians and over 20 transactions at the tyre centre. The businesses that have done really well are the ones that have pushed the fact that they accept the gift card, and encouraged its use, like our local butchers.
The support we’ve had from Kilmarnock and Cumnock businesses has been really strong. East Ayrshire Leisure signed up to receive the gift card as payment, and use the East Ayrshire Gift Card as employee incentives for schemes like employee of the month.”
Can you please tell us about your launch, marketing and PR activity?
“We had a big communications push to local businesses and consumers, positioning the East Ayrshire Gift Card as a wonderful gift and how it can be used with Shopappy. But we also prioritised internal communications and raising awareness of the gift card with various council departments, explaining how the East Ayrshire Gift Card could be used in different ways.
The East Ayrshire Gift Card was put into Christmas boxes for 4200 families in receipt of free school meals, with each receiving a £50 Gift Card. The same thing will happen for Easter 2021, with 4500 families receiving a £20 gift card.
With the gift card, we’re giving families flexibility and choice. There’s no stigma attached to using the gift card; there’s no way for anyone to know that it’s a hardship payment because it’s the same gift card that everyone can buy.
We can see exactly where funds are being spent. Around the 22nd December, butchers, bakers, greengrocers and shops like M&S had an influx of customers buying their Christmas dinners. The card helped families to have a nice Christmas. Families also used the East Ayrshire Gift Card to buy school clothes, craft items or Christmas gifts.
East Ayrshire Council’s housing department runs a garden competition for housing tenants. Tenants submit their gardens to the competition as part of a scheme to keep gardens and streets tidy. This year, the winning tenant was awarded an East Ayrshire Gift Card.”
What are your future plans with The East Ayrshire Gift Card?
“We’re in a rapidly changing retail environment and there is huge scope for the development of the gift card. One example might be housing developers giving the East Ayrshire Gift Card to new home owners. Working in partnership with local organisations helps us to identify and secure new opportunities for the gift card, bringing it to new audiences.
We’re part of Miconex’s Client Success program, and have taken the opportunity to get involved with campaigns like Mother’s Day, using provided templates, and helping our gift card to stay relevant to different audiences all year round.
People hear the shop local message all of the time. The gift card encourages people to shop locally, but in a more subtle way. It’s the best thing for any local economy because instead of people jumping on a train to shop, they have the incentive to shop where they live, they becomes more aware of what businesses are in there area and they get to know them.”
And finally, any advice for other places thinking about launching their own gift card?
“Our communications team took every opportunity to push the gift card, in newsletters and communications that were going out, and that’s something we’re keeping up. Consistency is key and keeping on sharing that message.
We’ve seen the benefits of working closely with other council departments and encouraging them to think about the different uses of the gift card. We now have departments approaching us instead of the other way around but I think there’s the potential to focus even more on internal marketing in the early stages, to really get people on board from the outset.
It’s vital to have that vision and to look at the bigger picture of how local gift card programs can be used to benefit the community, across departments, in organisations and for societal development and support.”