South Ayrshire gift card scheme to be extended despite low public turnout since launch

South Ayrshire Council’s gift card scheme will be extended – although shoppers are buying less than 200 of the 5,000 available.

The scheme, run by the Towns of Scotland Council and Partnership, works in the same way as gift cards you can buy in stores; load money on them and use them like a debit card.

The main difference is that the money can be spent at any local business registered with the program.

By April, 112 companies had signed up for the project.

However, public uptake has been less impressive with 196 cards purchased since the launch in South Ayrshire last November.

A total of £9,640 has been put on the cards, which equates to just under £50 per card.

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Initial funding for the program came from the Scottish Government, but there has been no confirmation that this investment will continue beyond September.

A report to the firm said: “Local businesses participating in the gift card initiative have the potential to unlock a new level of local spending, which is important as businesses recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“The gift card can be used in any type of business, online or offline – as long as the merchant has a ‘brick and mortar’ presence in the area.”

One of the first authorities to operate the scheme was neighboring East Ayrshire, which launched its card in August 2020.

In the first year of operation, a total of £104,000 was put on East Ayrshire gift cards. Over £80,000 was spent by the council itself, with cards given out to families in need of support.

A further £22,202 was spent by individuals and £13,325 by local businesses as part of a rewards scheme. The South Ayrshire scheme does not have the latter option, but officials are considering it.

South Ayrshire Council will seek to make similar progress in East Ayrshire in the second year of operation.

East Ayrshire has seen a significant increase in gift card support in 2021/22. This included individual purchases reaching £32,416 and corporate purchases up to £18,625.

It also massively increased its distribution – from £80,000 to £226,000.

South Ayrshire Council could face a monthly bill of £600 to run the scheme, totaling £7,200 for the year.

It also cost £3,000 to produce 5,000 gift cards, with similar expenses expected for years to come.

The report to the cabinet continued: “The Economy and Regeneration Service continues to target businesses that have the potential to benefit from the above campaigns – for example, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, cultural venues and heritage sites, downtown shopping, coastal experiences.

“Discussions are ongoing with the gift card provider on how the identified national chain store could be integrated to provide a better balance between food and convenience stores in Maybole, Girvan and surrounding areas.

“Opportunities are being explored to use the gift card for corporate rewards and recognition/incentives by anchor institutions in South Ayrshire.”

Council leader Martin Dowey gave his backing to the scheme but insisted more needed to be done to ‘encourage’ adoption.

Girvan Councilor Alec Clark also supported the extension, adding: “It encourages people to stimulate the local economy. We need to spread the word that the program exists and get the message out to the general public that it can benefit themselves and their community.

Councilor Stephen Ferry added: “It’s clear there isn’t a lot of turnout.”

He added that the extension would allow the board to see if there is any improvement after a full year.

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