East Ayrshire. Using local gift cards to disburse funds with dignity

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 in re

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 in receipt of free school meals, and the impact it had on the community.

In Easter 2021, East Ayrshire Council distributed 4500 East Ayrshire Gift Cards to local families as part of a support care package campaign, allowing families to redeem the disbursed funds with dignity at over 120 participating businesses in East Ayrshire.

The Easter scheme follows a successful trial during the Christmas 2020 period, whereby 4200 East Ayrshire Gift Cards were distributed to families in receipt of free school meals, allowing families to buy essentials for Christmas, such as food, toys and clothes with local businesses.

The increase in families receiving the care packages between December and April is due to the scheme being opened up to families with children of nursery age, and an increase in free school meal claims during the period.

Tracy Murray is Town Centre Regeneration Officer for East Ayrshire Council and said the gift cards were used in a variety of businesses in the area over the Christmas period:

“Families used the East Ayrshire Gift Card to buy their Christmas meal, to get meat from the butchers and fresh fruit and vegetables. But they also used the gift card to get new school clothes, to get presents for the children in craft and sports stores, perhaps even children being able to buy their parent a Christmas present for the first time. The support care packages helped families to have a nice Christmas.

“As well as shops, restaurants and attractions, we have 20 services on the East Ayrshire Gift Card, like a tyre centre. If a parent can’t get to work safely because their tyres need changing, that’s a family need. The initiative gives the family the opportunity to choose how they want to spend the gift card, giving them flexibility and choice.

“The dignity aspect is essential. There’s no stigma attached to a family using an East Ayrshire Gift Card, there’s no way for anyone to know if they’ve been gifted that card as part of our support care package, had it as a present from a friend or purchased it themselves. It doesn’t mark them out in any way when they use the gift card with local businesses.”

The East Ayrshire Gift Card was introduced in August 2020 as part of the Town & City Gift Cards program from Scottish fintech Miconex, as a means to drive footfall into East Ayrshire and keep money locked in locally but was quickly adopted by local organisations for a variety of uses. 

Ayrshire College use the East Ayrshire Gift Card as a way to support students experiencing financial hardship whilst East Ayrshire Leisure utilise the gift card for employee incentives and in place of Christmas social events. Collaboration across the council enabled the gift card to be used in their East Ayrshire Garden Competition, as part of a campaign to keep gardens and streets tidy.

Over £41,000 has been spent locally through the East Ayrshire Gift Card since its introduction with the most popular places to redeem the East Ayrshire Gift Card including Brownings the Bakers, Faulds the Butcher, Donsport in Cumnock, American restaurant Rock Diner & Aces and baby and children’s clothing store Knit One Kids Two.

With non-essential retail open once more in Scotland, the East Ayrshire Gift Card provides essential support for businesses whilst making it easy for customers to shop local says Tracy:

“Our focus now is on encouraging people back to the town centre safely and our banners feature popular local retailers and remind customers that they can buy and use their East Ayrshire Gift Card. In the old days people would jump on the train and go to Glasgow to shop. The gift card has to be spent here, so we’re keeping money in East Ayrshire.

“As well as being another revenue stream, it has helped businesses to find new customers. In a hugely changing retail environment, there is huge scope for the development of our gift card.”

Perth based Miconex took its total number of Town & City Gift Card programs in Scotland to 17 in 2020, and in 2022 operates programs in over 70 UK and Irish towns and cities. Managing director Colin Munro says that East Ayrshire are leading the way in showing the variety of uses for local gift card programmes:

“Local gift cards are vital to keep money locked into towns and cities through consumer sales. 76% of consumers have purchased a gift card over the last 3 years suggests the 2021 GCVA State of the Nation Report and the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that 81% of people are supporting local businesses more than before the pandemic began.

“As well as consumer sales, local gift cards have immense value to corporate clients who wish to reward their staff, with around half a million pounds in sales from our programmes in 2020 allocated to the corporate market. East Ayrshire has developed this further, embracing new ways to disburse funds into the local economy and exploring innovative uses for its local gift card.”

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