Lyons hails massive success of the High Street Scheme as spend deadline extended for late cards
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons today said the High Street Scheme has been a huge success which achieved what it set out to do.
The scheme, which launched in September and closed at midnight on Sunday 19 December, has provided a much needed economic boost to the retail, hospitality and service sectors.
The Minister said:
“It is clear that the scheme has been very successful. Over 1.4 million pre-paid £100 Spend Local cards were dispatched and we boosted the economy by over £137.5 million. The scheme also received a lot of positive feedback from a wide variety of businesses and organisations across all parts of Northern Ireland.
“I would like to thank every cardholder who spent their card with a local business. Not only have they provided support to that business, but also to their wider community through supporting local employment.”
According to an Ulster Bank Survey, retail sales in Northern Ireland rose in November for the first time in four months. The bank's monthly survey of private sector businesses is considered a reliable indicator of economic performance. Its Chief Economist Richard Ramsey said the scheme undoubtedly contributed to the pick-up in demand.
A report from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) showed that Northern Ireland’s footfall in November increased by 5.6 percentage points on the previous month. Northern Ireland’s shop visits were 10 percentage points higher than the UK average.
The Minister added:
“The scheme set out to support local businesses which had been hardest hit during the pandemic and it is clear, through any objective analysis, that it has undoubtedly done just that.”
A small proportion of the cards sent in the closing days of the scheme may not have been delivered in time.
In addition, a relatively small number of others may not have an opportunity to use their Spend Local Card before the scheme ended on 19 December 2021. The cards delivered late include cards that have been reissued due to being lost/stolen or faulty and also those who applied late, made errors in their applications or did not respond to requests for information within the scheme’s application and verification time period.
The cards were issued at-risk because the Department wanted to ensure the most amount of people could support local businesses and was, therefore, verifying applications up to the very last minute.
These card holders will be able to use their cards from 9am on Friday 24 December until 11.59pm on Friday 7 January. The Department will be in direct contact with these applicants with further information today.
The Department has become aware of a technical issue affecting 2,010 cards on the final weekend of the scheme. The vast majority of these cards had less than £5 outstanding balance and 300 cards did have the full balance remaining. It is unfortunate that these applicants were not able to support their local businesses, and the Department will also be in contact with these applicants to let them know they can also use their card from Friday 24 December until Friday 7 January 2022.
The Department appreciates that there may be wider issues affecting applications or the use of cards. Now the scheme has closed, the Department will take stock of the various issues people have faced and consider options for remedy.