By Colin Munro, Managing Director, Miconex
The gift card industry has seen significant changes over recent years as our towns and cities met with challenges ranging from the rise in online purchasing to the pandemic, and the more recent cost of living crisis. Within this, we’ve seen big changes to gift card demand, including increased popularity of multi-store gift cards and digital gift cards, localism and perhaps the most meaningful of changes; the rise of Gift Cards for Good.
Gift Cards for Good is a concept where gift cards are used to address a variety of social challenges, and it’s an area where Miconex and its towns and cities have shown true innovation. Places around the UK have utilised the Town & City Gift Card and Scotland Loves Local Gift Card program to meet the macro environment challenges currently faced and to solve some of society’s most pressing concerns, from homelessness to poverty and supporting communities in need.
The cost of living crisis has impacted many households. Since the start of 2022, 46% of the UK population say they are either slightly (35%) or significantly (11%) worse off (GCVA). This has exacerbated one of the key drivers for gift card purchase, that of avoiding wasteful giving. In Miconex 2022 research, 72.6% of employees said they would spend a gift card from work on something practical. Miconex backed Town & City Gift Cards have helped consumers and organisations to avoid wasteful giving through cards that can be spent on treats but also on practical products and experiences, communicating that gift cards offer choice, multi-store gift cards offer more choice and Town & City Gift Cards offer ultimate local choice.
The usefulness of Town & City Gift Cards to enable the recipient to access a wide range of things they both want and need has been recognised by organisations and community groups, with a number of interesting use cases.
In 2023, Cambridge BID collaborated with Pay It Forward, a Cambridge created non-profit supporting people in need, using the Love Cambridge Gift Card to distribute funds to service users via local charities. Pay It Forward partnered with Jimmy’s, Wintercomfort, Cambridge Housing Society (CHS) and Crossways, giving each organisation preloaded Love Cambridge Gift Cards for them to distribute to their service users or residents. Service users could use the Love Cambridge Gift Card as they wished, such as buying clothes for an interview or food. Charities noted that the card also supported their wider aims, including empowerment for residents, enabling people who have experienced homelessness to access new environments, such as retail, whilst taking their first steps back into society. An added benefit to the organisations involved is the ability to track spending through the cards so sponsors can understand exactly what impact their donation is making.
Another example of Gift Cards for Good is their usage to support people, places and sectors, distributing funds with dignity to people and communities in need and driving spending to hard hit sectors. At the very beginning of the pandemic, the East Ayrshire Gift Card, part of the Town & City Gift Card concept, was distributed to those in receipt of free school meals within Christmas food boxes. This initiative helped families to buy everything from school uniforms to Christmas day food with a dual benefit of supporting hard-hit local businesses.
In June 2021, the Scottish government backed the Town & City Gift Card system with the launch of a new Scotland Loves Local Gift Card for every local authority in Scotland, led by Scotland’s Towns Partnership and Miconex. In 2022, the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card was utilised to distribute £14 million Scottish Government Local Authority COVID Economic Recovery Fund (LACER) funding. This disbursement supported lower income families struggling with rising costs of living while ensuring money was reinvested in the local economy, helping businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic. This game-changing disbursement initiative using the power of local gift cards was the first of its scale in the UK.
Covid-19 accelerated trends that were already impacting our high streets, such as online shopping and the move towards out of town shopping. But it also heralded significant changes in society, including the normalisation of home working and one of the most impactful shopping trends, that of localism. Throughout the pandemic, there was a dawning realisation that consumers and organisations alike play a part in successful towns and cities. The pandemic presented a unique opportunity to reset the relationship between customers, places, businesses and employees. Miconex played, and continues to play, a pivotal role in helping business communities to work together to present an attractive ‘shop local’ proposition through its Town & City Gift Card concept, harnessing the emerging shop local sentiment and making it work for the evolution of the high street.
In 2022, Miconex research demonstrated the ability of Town & City Gift Cards to drive spend in towns and cities quickly, with 89.6% of people who receive a gift card make a specific visit into the town or city to spend it, and 1-3 months being the typical time period to spend (38.6%), followed by within 6 months (35.2%).
From an organisational perspective, the ability to positively impact their local economy through local gift cards, whilst meeting the needs of employees, is appealing. In our 2022 research, over 90% of employees said that support for local was important to them for Christmas 2022 and 84.5% of organisations said supporting local businesses is a factor when choosing rewards and incentives. Increasingly, organisations are turning to local gift cards to give their employees, volunteers, clients and customers increased choice but also to collaborate with businesses in their area, and make a tangible difference in the local community. Localism continues to resonate. In 2022, 28.8% of buyers bought gift cards from local businesses for somebody else, a slight increase from 2021 and over a quarter of self-use gift card buyers cited support for local as a driver of purchase too (GCVA).
The innovation we’ve already seen in the UK market as places utilise Town & City Gift Cards and Scotland Loves Local Gift Cards as powerful tools to address diverse challenges faced within our communities is inspiring. As we move into 2023 and beyond, the power of Gift Cards for Good will only increase as communities continue to adapt to macro environment forces and awaken to the possibilities that local gift cards offer.
To receive Miconex’s UK White Paper, Gift Cards for Good, please visit: https://mi-cnx.com/ukwhitepaper