Downtown Gift Card program from fintech Miconex expands across Canada

Downtown gift card company Miconex has announced new program launches in Canada, alongside EML Payments Limited (ASX: EML), following the success of existi

Downtown gift card company Miconex has announced new program launches in Canada, alongside EML Payments Limited (ASX: EML), following the success of existing gift card systems for Prince Edward Island and Peterborough. The new Downtown Gift Card systems launched in Downtown Sudbury and Downtown London in summer 2021.  

The Canada’s Food Island Gift Card was introduced by the Food Island Partnership in September 2020 to stimulate the economy and lock in spend on Prince Edward Island. The initiative was supported by the P.E.I government, with gift cards sold at 20% discount. Over $3.7 million has now been loaded onto Canada’s Food Island Gift Cards.

The province announced a new staycation incentive in summer 2021, with a $100 gift card given with each consecutive two-night stay at participating P.E.I accommodation, as part of a $66 million support package for the island’s tourism industry.

Kent Thompson, Director of Finance and Food Tourism for Food Island Partnership said the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card project has vastly exceeded their expectations:

“We have 160,000 residents on Prince Edward Island as Canada’s smallest province and had projected that the entire project would raise $100,000 for our local economy.  Our initial release of 5000 gift cards sold out in 4.5 days, so we quickly surpassed that goal. 80 merchants had signed up to receive the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card as payment within a week of the project being announced. We now have over 300 merchants.

“The discount we offered really helped us to overcome those initial reservations people might have about trying a new program. It was attractive enough to encourage people to give it a go. Getting people to buy the gift card is just half of the equation, the rest comes in inspiring them to use it. Finally, and fundamentally, the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card powered by Miconex and EML is easy to work with and easy for customers to use.”

Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) launched its Boro Gift Card in December 2020 replacing its paper Downtown Money system. Within its first month, the Boro Gift Card achieved $70,000 in sales- equivalent to around 5 years of sales for their old paper system.  Over $120,000 of Downtown Dollars have been sold to date.  

Terry Guiel is the Executive Director of the Peterborough DBIA and said the Boro Gift Card provides the community with the opportunity to support local businesses:

“Miconex’s Downtown Gift Card system has been a gamechanger for us. We wanted to move away from the paper money system which was incredibly time consuming as well as a security risk. But more than that, we realized that to compete in the growing gift card market as well as with the likes of Amazon we had to offer an attractive alternative, and one that was local.

“Our new gift card is super easy. It can be used on universal terminals, which was a major selling point for us. Now things are set up and we’re past the holiday rush, on average we spend only a few minutes each day processing the cards.  It’s incredibly easy to manage, seamless and our customers love it. We developed the Boro brand and gift card holders, the perfect size to slot into an envelope. With our new Boro Gift Card we’ve been able to transform our whole downtown into a local mall with its own dedicated gift card that can be used in over 120 businesses.

“50% of our gift card sales come from outside the area, 15% of redemptions are new customers to that business and 65% is usually spent over and above the gift card value. It brings new money into the community, gives people choice whilst also lessening their ability to spend outside of the area, and encourages them to be more experimental. It’s a great example of what a downtown can do for its members.”

In September, Downtown London will also replace its Downtown Dollars program with a gift card powered by Miconex and EML. The new gift cards can be loaded with any dollar amount and spent in person at around 60 participating businesses including restaurants, grab & go eateries, entertainment venues, live music, sporting facilities and retail stores, or online on Downtown London’s Online Marketplace. 

Sudbury’s new gift card is the latest initiative from Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Association (BIA) to encourage people to visit and shop in the core.  Downtown Dollars can be purchased at Miconex’s My Downtown Gift Cards website, and spent with numerous businesses in Sudbury, such as restaurants, retailers, salons and attractions. 

Kyle Marcus, the managing director at Downtown Sudbury BIA and owner of cocktail bar The Alibi Room said it’s vital for communities to unite following the pandemic:

“Sudbury has been on a journey of change for some time, from small mining town to urban multicultural city. The pandemic has further changed our community offering new opportunities for growth as we’re experiencing an influx of people wanting to relocate to Sudbury for its mix of urban centre and outdoor recreation. As a small business owner, I can say from first-hand experience how hard it has been for businesses. Community unity is vital for Sudbury’s recovery, the Downtown Dollars Gift Card allows us to support merchants by giving them another revenue stream, and capitalize on the emigration from nearby cities. We’re positioning Sudbury for the future.”

Bloomberg analysis of SafeGraph Inc showed that footfall at clothing stores in Canada was up 44% in June 2021 vs. June 2019. Statistics Canada’s May 2021 retail trade release put overall sales in March 2021 at $55 billion, up 27% on March 2020. Ontario recorded $20 billion in sales in March 2021, up 21% on March 2020. Prince Edward Island recorded $242 million in sales in March 2021, up 45% on March 2020. 

In the US, Miconex will introduce new gift card programs in South Dakota, Alabama, Idaho and Massachusetts in 2021, adding to existing systems in Alaska, Montana, Virginia, Arizona, Michigan, Massachusetts and Colorado.

Ailie Kofoid, CEO Americas at EML, said: “Miconex’s rapid Canadian Downtowns expansion means hundreds of thousands more families are enjoying local places and a fintech-friendly summer.”

Andy Monaghan is CEO of Miconex North America and said downtowns are looking for new ways to stimulate the economy:

“In any Canadian province, there are multiple organizations focused on the success of businesses, from DBIAs and local Chambers of Commerce to local government. As well as stimulating the economy, these organizations naturally feel they have a role to play in bringing consumers back. A gift card system is a tangible way that they can support small, local businesses. It also means they can be ready for the holiday period when demand for gift cards will rocket. 

“In Canada, the average spend on gift cards is $465 per year, per person.  There are millions, even tens of million dollars being spent in each community. This significant amount of money goes to the big national and international chains and internet retailers. Introducing a program means provinces like Ontario and Prince Edward Island can harness that spend, and take their fair share of the gift card market. 

“But if places can move a step beyond this, and see their program not as a gift card but a local currency, it paves the way for innovative tourism initiatives like we’ve seen on Prince Edward Island and disbursement of funds to local residents. There is an opportunity to be hugely creative. Our job at Miconex is helping provinces to figure out the challenges they’re facing right now and a plan for success that benefits the whole community.”

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