| 5°C Belfast

High street given £100m Spend Local boost

Minister hails success of scheme as he urges public to spend card in full


Bargain hunters: Black Friday shoppers in Belfast city centre last week

Bargain hunters: Black Friday shoppers in Belfast city centre last week

Bargain hunters: Black Friday shoppers in Belfast city centre last week

Retailers and hospitality venues have benefited from a £100m boost thanks to the high street scheme, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said.

He provided an update as the close of the scheme approaches.

The public has just two weeks left to use their £100 Spend Local card before the expiration date of December 14.

Mr Lyons said: “The purpose of the high street scheme is to stimulate local businesses, including retail, hospitality and service sector outlets, which had been hit hardest during the pandemic.

“It is great to report that we have now boosted spending in these sectors by at least £100m and that the scheme is delivering that much-needed cash injection.

“I have been told by businesses, chambers of commerce and trade representatives how important Spend Local cards have been in helping them recover from the severest impacts of the pandemic.”

However, the minister said he was keen to ensure that all Spend Local cards were used in full.

He said: “December 14 is not far away.

“To those people who have yet to activate or use their Spend Local card, I urge you to do it now.

“It is important that every card holder spends every penny on their £100 card in order to maximise the benefit. Every penny counts, so check you balance and spend it all.

“I have been hugely encouraged that so many people have carefully considered where best to use their Spend Local card to help their local shops, restaurants and services. I want to thank them for that.

“As we enter the last fortnight, my message remains: spend it now, spend it all and spend it local.”

He reminded cardholders they can check their balance, view transaction history, terms and conditions or find answers to frequently asked questions by visiting DfE’s 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.

Over the past two months retailers and business leaders have praised the scheme for bringing much needed footfall back to the high street.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “Clearly shoppers have responded to the calls to support their small traders and we hope this will continue.

“The high street scheme is an invaluable short-term boost for thousands of local independent retailers and we hope to see this support continue beyond the lifetime of the scheme.”

It had originally been intended the card would be valid until November 30.

But announcing an extension last month, Mr Lyons told the Assembly: “It remains the case that most people have four weeks to spend their card, but I recognise that this will not be the case for everyone.”

The impact of the voucher scheme was evident in October footfall figures here.

The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium revealed a 5.7% increase in footfall for the month compared to September.

This was well above the UK average decline of 13.7%.