Lyons urges businesses get involved in the High Street Scheme

Date published: 23 September 2021


Economy Minister Gordon Lyons today encouraged retailers, hospitality and services sectors across Northern Ireland to show their support for the High Street Support Scheme which opens for applications between 27th September and October 25th.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons

The Department has published a digital suite of promotional materials for all those eligible retail, hospitality and service businesses, which are now available from nibusinessinfo. These tools can be used for retailers to show their support for the scheme and to encourage shoppers to give local businesses and their community a lift.

In addition, an advertising campaign has been launched to encourage shoppers to use their card to support their local businesses.

The Minister said:

“The High Street Scheme is designed to boost businesses across the retail, hospitality and services sectors following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is unprecedented in Northern Ireland, and I would urge all businesses to show their support to help maximise the benefits of the Spend Local cards. The first step should be to share the digital promotional materials on your social media platforms.

“I would also urge shoppers to use their Spend Local cards wisely to support the local economy and local communities. A little spend can have a big effect.”

Retail NI Chief Executive, Glyn Roberts said the scheme comes on the back of a very challenging period for retailers right across Northern Ireland.

He said:

“The High Street Support Scheme is a welcome step in the long road to recovery for Northern Ireland’s retailers and I would encourage everyone in our industry to think hard about how they can encourage people to use their £100 Spend Local card with their business. It should be remembered that 70p in every pound spent in an independent retailer is recycled around the local economy. If consumers make a special effort to spend their £100 with local traders, then they will also be ensuring the money also goes towards invigorating the wider community.”

Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive, Colin Neil said the impact of Covid-19 continues to present major challenges for the hospitality industry across Northern Ireland.

He said:

“There is a great deal of uncertainty in the industry at the minute. The pandemic has had a devastating impact right across the sector. We welcome the introduction of the High Street Scheme, which is a great opportunity for people to support jobs of friends and family who work in hospitality while enjoying some of the best food and drink in the world.

“I would urge our members to download the digital materials and use them to promote the Spend Local cards across social media. It is vital we maximise the benefits of the scheme so we can all support our local hospitality businesses and our struggling high streets.”

Northern Ireland Hotels Federation Chief Executive, Janice Gault welcomed the introduction of the scheme and described the local tourism industry as a key driver for Northern Ireland’s economy.

She said:

“The High Street Support Scheme is good news for our industry as we continue on our road to recovery. My message to our members is to ensure they do all they can to encourage people to use their Spend Local cards with them which will give a boost to their business and the wider economy.

“The first thing to do is download the digital promotional materials and share them across social media so the public knows where they can redeem their cards. The scheme is a great opportunity to give a boost to our struggling high streets and I would encourage the public to carefully consider how they use their cards, so the maximum benefit is extended as far as possible.”

Meanwhile, both the business community and the public are warned to be on their guard against scammers attempting to take advantage of the scheme. The Department will not be asking for personal bank details at any point during the scheme.

Notes to editors: 

1. The Department digital suite of promotional materials for eligible retail, hospitality and service businesses is available to download from the nibusinessinfo website

2. Key dates in the rollout of the High Street Scheme

  • 27th September to 25th October - Applications portal will be open.
  • Week commencing 4th October – First tranche of cards will issue to those who have successfully applied for the Spend Local pre-paid card.
  • 11th October – Telephone service will open to support applications from people not able to access or use the online portal.
  • 25th October – High Street Scheme online portal and telephone services will close.
  • 25th October - the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for a Spend Local card.
  • 30th November – High Street Scheme closes and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.

4. From 27th of September to 25th of October, applicants can apply for the Spend Local card through the portal on nidirect.

For verification purposes in order to reduce the risk of fraud and error, each applicant will be asked to provide:

  • name;
  • address;
  • age;
  • gender;
  • disability status;
  • national insurance number;
  • email address; and
  • telephone number. 

Applicants will also have the option of including a driving licence number to enable verification. Once the applicant has completed the registration process their information will be checked against a number of government databases to verify their identity.

5. When an applicant receives their card, they will need to verify 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.

6. 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.

7. The telephone support service will open on 11th October. The later opening of the telephone service has been implemented to encourage more people to apply online when the portal opens on 27th September and avoid using the phone line leaving it available for those who do not have access to, or are not able to use, the internet.

8. The High Street Scheme Spend Local pre-paid card will be able to be accepted by shops and businesses which can accept credit and debit cards for payment. It cannot be used to purchase goods or services online.

9. The Department’s Economic Recovery Action Plan is available on Department's website

10. The Department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the Department’s internal records management system. The Department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The Department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.

11. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI 

12. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at

13. 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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