New research shows an increase in shoppers on Northern Ireland’s high streets – as the final countdown to the end of the highly successful High Street Scheme begins.
The scheme will close in 11 days’ time on 14 December and the public is being urged by Economy Minister Gordon Lyons to spend whatever remains on their Spend Local cards as soon as possible.
Already, over £107million has been spent by cardholders across Northern Ireland in the retail, hospitality and service sectors.
Minister Lyons today welcomed new figures published by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) which show a boost to the number of people going into shops or businesses in October being continued in November following the introduction of the High Street Scheme. NIRC has said “the High Street Scheme is truly proving its value”.
The NIRC data shows that, in November, the number of shoppers in Northern Ireland reached their highest point so far compared to the pre-pandemic level. This has led to Northern Ireland showing the best recovery in the UK with -5.2% on 2019 figures.
The equivalent figures for England, Wales and Scotland were -15.7%, -16.7% and -19.8% respectively.
Minister Lyons said:
“The aim of the High Street Scheme has been to stimulate local businesses, including retail, hospitality and service sector outlets, which had been hit hardest during the pandemic so I am delighted to see this research published by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.
“I would once again urge anyone who has yet to activate or use their Spend Local card, to do it now. We want to see every penny possible from every £100 card spent. Spend it now, spend it all and spend it local.”
Aodhán Connolly, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium Director, said:
“The High Street Card scheme is truly proving its value with a phenomenal bounce back in footfall across Northern Ireland. This is hugely welcome news for retailers who have had the toughest two years on record.”
The Minister also encouraged everyone to shop safely by wearing a face covering, maintaining social distancing and using contactless payment where possible.
Cardholders can check their balance, view transaction history, terms and conditions or find answers to frequently asked questions relating to the cards by visiting the DfE Spend Local page.
When an applicant receives their card, they must activate it through a computer-operated phone system or text message and make the first payment using a pin, before they can start to use it for contactless payments.
Notes to editors:
1. Full details of the NIRC research is available on its website.
2. The High Street Scheme closes on December 14 when the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.
3. The Department is required under Section 75 to monitor the implementation of its policies which includes collecting data on age, sex and disability.
4. When an applicant receives their card, they will need to activate the card through a computer-operated phone system or text message and make the first payment using a pin, before they can start to use it for contactless payments.
5. The cards can be used in all participating businesses in Northern Ireland. They cannot be used online or for gambling or some financial and legal services.
6. The telephone support service opened on 11 October. The later opening of the telephone service was implemented to encourage more people to apply online when the portal opened on 27 September and avoid using the phone line leaving it available for those who did not have access to, or were not able to use, the internet. It closed at 6pm on October 25.
7. The Department’s Economic Recovery Action Plan is available on the Department's ERAP page.
9. To keep up to date with news from the Department you can follow us on the following social media channels:
- Twitter – @Economy_NI
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10. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at email@example.com
11. The Executive Information Service operates an out-of-hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
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