Case Studies

The biggest local gift card in the UK: the York Gift Card

Background to the York Gift Card The York Gift Card launched in 2019 and achieved almost £70,000 in sales in 2021, an increase of 47% on 2020. Over 300 bus

Background to the York Gift Card

The York Gift Card launched in 2019 and achieved almost £70,000 in sales in 2021, an increase of 47% on 2020. Over 300 businesses accept the York Gift Card, making it the biggest Town & City Gift Card in the UK, and one of the most successful local gift cards in 2021.

Carl Alsop is the Operations Manager at York BID:

Why did you introduce a local gift card for York and what has the response been from customers?

“We introduced the York Gift Cards as a means to support the high street. When we started the gift card, we thought it would be a card primarily for residents, but it really is a card for all. We’ve had a really strong uptake of the York Gift Card and I think that’s because people are really proud to live here and give the card as gifts. As a Medieval city with a fascinating history and so much to see and do, York attracts over 6 million visitors each year and has been popular with tourists too.

“The pandemic took its toll on York, like all cities. We lost around 10 businesses but some have reopened in new locations and there are also new businesses springing up. Supporting local businesses by spending locally is more important than ever and there has been a big shift towards shop local in York. People understand that if they don’t use their local businesses, that there is a real risk that they will lose them.

“York Gift Cards have been purchased from as far away as Australia, and for such a wide range of reasons, from winning a pumpkin carving competition, thanking someone for taking care of them during lockdown to a gift for a staycation in York. There was a £500 gift card purchased by a family in America for their daughter studying at York. We asked if they wanted a message on the card and now we offer this as a service. This has made the experience of receiving the York Gift Card even more personal.”

How did you encourage 300 businesses to join the York Gift Card and why was this important to you?

“York is a vibrant city with many independent businesses, and lots of variety. Our focus was bringing as many of these businesses on board as possible, everything from the York Dungeon, York Minster and artisan chocolate shops on our famous Shambles to car parks and opticians, so we could give recipients a true taste of York and make it an enticing, exciting proposition.

“When we were on-boarding businesses we reminded them that it doesn’t cost anything to be a part of the York Gift Card, and it’s another revenue stream. They were keen to take part. Since then, we’ve continued to add on businesses. When you look at the range of businesses, you understand that it can be bought by, and enjoyed, by anyone, no matter their age. When Miconex told me that the 2021 sales data for the top 10 Town & City Gift Cards showed universal appeal for gift cards right across the age brackets, I wasn’t surprised because that has always been the selling point of the York Gift Card. It’s not a retail card, it’s a card for all sectors and for all generations.

“Having a wide range of businesses has also been important for our corporate sales. Lots of companies use the York Gift Card for staff bonuses, or for staff incentives through the year. They use it for their staff because there is a huge choice for those staff to spend their cards, on experiences and products as well as more practical things. If it was a gift card with 10 registered businesses, it wouldn’t be appealing to corporate clients.

“In the pandemic, both corporate clients and consumers started to worry more about buying gift cards for businesses that might close. With the York Gift Card, they know that there will always be somewhere to use their card and that gives an extra layer of security.”

Can you please tell us about your marketing and PR activity?

“Our original York Gift Card design is of one of York’s iconic buildings, York Minster, created by local artist Jonathan Williams, resident artist at The Braithwaite Gallery. In 2021 we introduced a second card design featuring Clifford’s Tower, also designed by Jonathan. This helped us to capture the public’s interest once more, and put the gift card top of mind.

“Constantly innovating helps us to keep the York Gift Card fresh and remind people that it’s still here and available, rather than expensive advertising campaigns. We’ll also use the gift card in community activity too. At a recent residents’ festival, we gave away 150 York Gift Cards with £5 on. This was an ideal way to get people trying the card for the first time, visiting the high street again and trying new businesses. We also know that people spend up to 65% on top of the gift card value when they redeem a gift card, so it’s a worthwhile financial investment.

“During the pandemic, people were maybe not visiting our sales points as much as normal so we offered free postage on gift cards, giving customers a way of still supporting the high street even though they may have been visiting less.”

What are your future plans with the York Gift Card?

“In 2022 we’ll continue to innovate and grow the York Gift Card. Each year we are adding more new businesses, gaining new corporate clients, and making more customers aware of their local gift card. There really is no end to the potential of a local gift card, it can always be developed with new businesses joining and new customers using the card.

“We’re really proud of what has been achieved with the York Gift Card so far. We never expected it to grow so fast and are very grateful to those who have shown their support for the York Gift Card and our high streets. With the York Gift Card, we are positioning our city for the future.”


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