The Barnsley Gift Card is part of the pioneering Town and City Gift Card concept from fintech Miconex, local gift cards for over 100 places in the UK and Ireland, featuring both national and independent businesses. The Barnsley Gift Card launched in November 2020 and can be spent with over 130 businesses, including retail, hospitality, leisure and services.

Around 65% of businesses registered with Town and City Gift Cards are independent. One of the independent businesses which accepts the Barnsley Gift card is Morley Meats in Barnsley. Owner Pete Morley said:

“If I get four £20 Barnsley Gift Cards in during the day, that’s £80 extra in the till and the money is in our account the next day. I think every business should be a part of the Barnsley Gift Card. Imagine a customer coming in asking if you accept the gift card and you have to say no, turning away money and losing a customer. I can’t understand that.

“Another benefit of the gift card is that it can help businesses to work together. We’re located in Barnsley’s new market food hall, part of the new Glass Works development. You’ve got your traditional butcher, grocer and fishmonger alongside your deli and florist. A customer could spend £5 on fruit and vegetables and then come in and get their meat. One gift card gives them access to lots of Barnsley businesses, and encourages them into Barnsley Markets.”

The mutual dependence of national and independent businesses for retaining and clawing back expenditure which might otherwise be spent elsewhere was highlighted by the University of Southampton’s High Street Performance and Evolution report, alongside the emergence of symbiotic relationships between corporate retailers and local independent stores.

The Local Data Company on behalf of accountancy firm PWC found that 8739 national retailers, with more than 5 locations, closed during the first 6 months of 2021 with 3488 opening, a net change of -5251. They also note that the rate of store closures has slowed. A key concern noted by the report was the ‘shifting consumer preference to out-of-town shopping’ with the suggestion that ‘investors must consider how to repurpose spaces to attract footfall’, ‘creating a retail and hospitality destination’ and ‘showcasing independent and local operators’.

The UK Government has set out plans for £10 billion of funding for high streets and town centres, in its July 2021 policy paper: Build Back Better High Streets. It states that 72% of retail sales in 2020 took place in store. Supporting a diverse mix of activities and businesses, making businesses large and small feel welcome and supporting a physical, social experience of togetherness, were all mentioned within the strategy to revitalise high streets.

M&S, Primark, John Lewis and Boots are four of the national brands participating in Town and City Gift Card programmes, with over £300,000 of Town and City Gift Cards redeemed at the four national brands since 2020. To date, Boots in Barnsley is the most popular Boots store in England for redemptions of Town and City Gift Cards in 2021.

Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex and said: “The idea that national and independent stores can not only co-exist but benefit from the presence of each other is not new, and collaboration is a key tenet of the Town and City Gift Card concept. Both national and independent businesses have their place in our towns and cities, and contribute to the overall attractiveness of the consumer offering; the loss of a national brand or a much loved independent can be devastating for an area.

“Customers want diversity in their towns and cities, and creating successful, vibrant, inclusive towns and cities is very much on the government agenda. By participating in the Barnsley Gift Card, nationals and independents have a tangible means to unite, collaborate and contribute to the evolution of their town or city.”