Miconex builds on success of Downtown Gift Card concept in the US

Miconex builds on success of Downtown Gift Card concept in the US Downtown gift card company Miconex is launching new programs in the US, alongside EML Pa

 Miconex builds on success of Downtown Gift Card concept in the US

Downtown gift card company Miconex is launching new programs in the US, alongside EML Payments Limited (ASX: EML), following the success of its existing gift card systems in Alaska, Montana, Virginia, Arizona, Michigan, Massachusetts and Colorado.

New gift card programs are scheduled for launch in Oregon, Illinois, California, New York, New Jersey, South Dakota, Alabama, Idaho and Massachusetts in 2021, including a number of shopping mall programs.

The Downtown Gift Card concept builds on the long-standing relationship between Miconex and EML Payments. Programs are designed to support places on their mission to increase downtown visits and spend, utilizing Miconex’s infrastructure and operational expertise in gift card programs, and EML Payments’ experience of mall and downtown gift card programs.

Miconex’s US expansion has seen the firm work alongside EML on a number of Downtown Gift Card programs, including launching new programs for Downtown Lynchburg, Downtown Billings, Downtown Mesa, Olde Town Arvada, Port Huron and East Boston Main Streets, plus a federal funds disbursement initiative in Cordova.

In Canada, Miconex worked with Prince Edward Island to introduce the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card. Over $3.7 million has now been loaded onto Canada’s Food Island Gift Cards, with another 100,000 cards going on sale. In Ontario, Miconex partnered with Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) to create the Boro Gift Card, replacing its paper Downtown Money system and achieving $70,000 in sales in the first month- equivalent to around 5 years of sales for their old paper system.  New programs will launch in Ontario in 2021.

Over $1.9 million has been loaded onto the various Downtown Gift Card schemes in the US since their inception. Early success for the Downtown Gift Card programs saw an initial print run of 2,500 gift cards selling out in Downtown Billings, Montana, in the first week of its program, whilst over $35,000 has been spent in Downtown Lynchburg, Virginia, since its launch in December 2020. In Arizona, the Downtown Mesa Gift Card program launched prior to Christmas 2020, taking over $9,000 of gift card orders in its first weeks of operation.

Both Downtown Lynchburg and Downtown Mesa switched to the Miconex and EML powered Downtown Gift Card program from previous programs, both digital and paper-based.

Kate Schwab is the Director of Business Relations at Downtown Mesa Association and commented:

“Our new Downtown Mesa Gift Card replaced our old program, it wasn’t a great system. Businesses would let the certificates gather in the register for months, eventually bringing them to the office for reimbursement. The new Downtown Mesa Gift Card is much more 21st century. I explain it to businesses that it’s like accepting a credit card, you don’t give change and you get the money instantly. They have this lightbulb moment when they realise how much better and how much easier the new gift card is.

“One of our biggest customers for the gift card is the City of Mesa. Christmas was especially busy for bulk orders. Benedictine University placed an order with us, and more recently, a local bank used the Downtown Mesa Gift Card as a $500 prize for their grand opening. The person who won spent the whole gift card on summer music lessons for her two kids, it’s like a virtuous circle. Mesa is on a cool trajectory, with our craft breweries and farmers markets, and the gift card is a part of that.”

The Downtown Gift Card program removes many of the pain points associated with paper-based gift card schemes said Andrew Monaghan, CEO of Miconex North America:

“Businesses, downtowns and customers dislike paper-based gift certificate schemes because they’re difficult to operate, redeem and manage. We’re taking away all of that and giving downtowns a fully managed service that enables the town or city to get on with other jobs. Another benefit is the data insight. Downtown leaders have access to reports including those showing the economic impact through redemption.”

Key to the early success of the US programs has been corporate sales with downtowns making large local businesses an important part of their launch marketing strategies says Andrew:

“Our customers are seeing just how vital corporate sales are to the area. Employers want to reward their staff and support local, especially during the global pandemic. For example, Downtown Billings received a $13,000 corporate order for gift cards for healthcare workers.

“There’s also an increasing understanding that downtowns have to be proactive at taking their fair share of the booming gift card market. The US gift card market is set to top $221 billion by 2024. Introducing a gift card program isn’t about making a new market for gift cards in a particular area. That market is already there. There’s no reason why the money that is already being spent on gift cards with large, national chains or internet retailers can’t be spent on local gift cards, supporting local economies and small businesses. Amazon or Target won’t miss the spend on their gift cards, but for local businesses, it might be the difference between survival and closing down.

“Consumers have moved spend to online retailers, and it’s up to places to encourage them back in a sustainable way, not with a one-off event, but by giving them a reason to visit their downtown on a regular basis. Community is key. We need to tap into the inherent desire to help our local businesses survive, and let residents play a part in the rebound of the community. It’s also about creating an attractive proposition for businesses so downtowns can replace those stores they may have lost due to the pandemic.

“Miconex is a downtown company and our job is helping downtowns bring back people from the community to spend with local retailers. And everyone is better off if we do that, the customer, the downtown and the businesses. When a downtown implements a gift card program, good things happen.”

Susan Brown, Program Director at Downtown Lynchburg Association, commented on the early success of the program:

“We wanted to introduce a gift card program for many years, but this became even more important in the pandemic to support our downtown restaurants, retailers, attractions, hotels and services. The initial gift card program we selected wasn’t right for us, and we decided early on that the switch had to be made to Miconex and EML.

“At the start, we didn’t really know what to expect in terms of sales. Particularly as we were changing programs and had that extra strand to consider. But, we’re definitely happy with the success of the program.”

Ailie Kofoid, CEO Americas at EML noted, ”Miconex is enjoying a tremendous 2021 as North American downtowns and consumers further embrace a smarter way to boost local economies and businesses with the Downtown Gift Cards solution. In some cases, this innovative product has completely sold out, and there are numerous examples of how it is helping to bring out the best in society in the pandemic. EML has also been delighted to partner with Miconex on similar projects in Canada, the UK and Ireland as they record success after success.”

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