High Street Scheme was ‘an economic shot in the arm’ for our retail, hospitality and service sectors

80% of retail and hospitality businesses agreed that the HSS helped support small independent businesses

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 11:15 am

The High Street Scheme has been recognised as an effective way to stimulate the economy, restore consumer confidence and safeguard jobs, by retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in Northern Ireland.

That was a key finding of the ‘Business Impact of the Northern Ireland High Street Scheme’ report which included a survey carried out by Retail Economics on behalf of the Department.

The research report was undertaken to assess the impact of the High Street Scheme on the retail, hospitality and service sectors and was focussed on gathering business feedback. Its findings show that the scheme delivered against five key areas:

Minister Gordon Lyons speaks to the media at the launch of the High Street Scheme in Belfast

Engagement: there was widespread engagement, with almost every single Spend Local Card activated (99.6%), with 1.4 million residents having applied for card.

Additionality: both large and small businesses reported that the pre-paid card contributed to additional spending, rather than displacing spending that was likely to have occurred anyway.

Targeting: spending was reported to have been boosted across small independent local businesses.

Confidence: the pre-paid card provided an impetus for consumers to visit physical channels which had a positive impact on footfall.

Jobs: businesses reported that the scheme helped to safeguard jobs.

From the 315 retail, hospitality and leisure businesses surveyed, the following key statistics emerged:

80% of retail and hospitality businesses agreed that the HSS helped support small independent businesses, 65% of retail and hospitality businesses thought the HSS had a positive or very positive impact on sales against their expectations for the time of year, 74% of small businesses thought the scheme helped boost consumer confidence and footfall over the mid-November to mid-January period, over two-thirds (69%) of small retailers thought that the scheme helped safeguard jobs, 80% of small retailers thought that the HSS encouraged spending that was otherwise unlikely to have occurred and two-thirds (66%) of small businesses thought that it was a good use of public money.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons welcomed the findings: “The High Street Scheme was a novel and ambitious initiative which achieved exactly what it set out to do. Its objectives were to bring people back on to the High Street and to deliver an economic shot in the arm into our retail, hospitality and service sectors to help them recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.

“Just under 1.4million cards were issued and over £136 million was injected into the Northern Ireland economy as a result. The research revealed by ‘Business Impact of the Northern Ireland High Street Scheme’ is further evidence of the success of the scheme in meeting these objectives.”

Reacting to ‘Business Impact of the NI High Street Scheme’ survey, Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts, added: “This survey confirms that the Spend Local card was hugely beneficial in giving a significant boost to local independent retailers and increasing footfall on our high streets.

“It is very clear that consumers heeded the call to get out and support their local independent retailers. As this Assembly term comes to an end, there is no doubt the Spend Local Card was one its most successful achievements.

“Given the current economic difficulties facing the High Street, the next Executive should give serious consideration to rerunning this scheme in 2023”

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