Northern Ireland doles out £100 shopping vouchers to all adults

Pictured in Carrickfergus with Northern Ireland Economy Minister Gordon Lyons are (l-r) Lee Britton, PFS; Roger Pollen, FSB NI; Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster; Sarah Cunningham, Mastercard and Aodhán Connolly, NI Retail Consortium.

Northern Ireland has launched a new High Street Scheme, which will see everyone aged 18 and over getting a pre-paid card worth £100 to spend on their local high street.

The £145 million scheme will be delivered by Prepaid Financial Services (PFS). The registration process is expected to open to the public in September.

“This scheme is a key element of my Department’s Economic Recovery Action Plan and will give a very welcome boost to our high streets which were hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. This uplift is what our local businesses need and deserve,” Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said, launching the ‘Spend Local’ logo, which will feature on each of the cards, during a visit to businesses in Carrickfergus.

“It will mean up to 1.4 million people will have an extra £100 each to spend on our high streets rather than online. This will help bring many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and other sectors,” he added.

Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said the scheme will be a welcome boost to high street retailers.

“The past year has been one of the hardest on record for our retail industry and our high streets because of the pandemic. This scheme will give a welcome boost to high street retailers and other consumer-facing sectors in towns and cities in Northern Ireland,” Connolly said.

“It will create a virtuous circle of spending that supports our economy, boosts local commerce and gives our shoppers some retail and hospitality therapy. We would encourage everyone who is eligible to register for the scheme and make every penny count.”

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts added: “This scheme is a win-win for our members and our high streets. It will be a significant spending boost for struggling independent retailers as we progress the long road toward recovery.

“70p in every pound spent with an independent retailer is recycled around the economy, supporting local producers, farmers and manufacturers. So it is vital that consumers make a special effort to spend this pre-paid card with local traders to ensure the widest possible boost to our economy.”

PFS is a payments technology company which helps governments worldwide get money quickly into the hands of people who need it the most.

Lee Britton, chief executive for Europe at PFS, said: “’We are delighted to have been awarded this contract. Our award-winning economic stimulus product trusted by governments worldwide will help to give a huge financial boost to the Northern Ireland economy.”

Minister Lyons urged the public to sign up for the electoral register if they have not already done so as the government plans to use the register to check registrations for the High Street Scheme.

The scheme follows research carried out by Retail Economics on how, when and where the scheme could impact on consumer spending.

“The results of the consumer panel show that there is evidence that the scheme will encourage shoppers back on the high street, to support local independent businesses and to spend their card in those sectors that have faced difficulties trading in the past year. Many respondents considered that it would encourage them to visit physical locations,” Lyons said.

The High Street Scheme 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.