Spend Local scheme should be revived next year, says Northern Ireland retail chief
Almost 40% of the money spent on the High Street voucher scheme went to businesses that were not required to close during lockdown, according to new figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
Of the £136.5m total spend, approximately £50m was spent on stores that remained open through the lockdowns, including supermarkets, local food stores and off licences.
Everyone aged 18 and over was invited to apply for the £100 Spend Local card following its launch in late September last year. The total number of transactions was 3,713,609, with £97.94 on average used on the activated cards.
Sunday, November 14 was the busiest day, with 104,477 transactions and £4m spent.
Retail NI said the majority of the money did make its way to local independents and the scheme should be replicated in future years, but in a more targeted way..
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the organisation, said: “It was a very, very good short term fix that kept people in jobs.”
One sector — retail, wholesale and vehicle services — dominated spend at £118m followed by £10m on accommodation and food services.
Nearly all (96%) of the £84.9m spent in businesses required to close during 2020 was accounted for by retail (£68m), accommodation and food services (£10m), and other service activities (£4m).
But the analysis reveals that £50m was spent on those businesses who remained open throughout the pandemic, almost all under the retail banner. Around 43% of the amount spent on retail alone went to companies that remained open during the lockdowns.
According to the analysis, the Belfast City Council area accounted for 20% of the total spend, or £27.6m, with £11m, or just over eight per cent, spent in the city centre.
The DfE also published the results of a survey of citizens, one carried out prior to the September 27 launch and one during its operation through to near the end of November.
According to the survey carried out after its launch, two thirds said they intended to spend or have spent all or most of the £100 in small local businesses.
Over a fifth (22%) said they intended to spend or have spent some in small local businesses and some in large multinational companies, whilst just over a tenth, 11%, said they intended to spend or have spent all or most of it in large multinational companies. Over two fifths, 44%, said they intended to spend or had spent all of the £100 on items they would have bought anyway.
Just over a fifth said they intended to spend or had spent on items they would not have bought absent the scheme.
The majority, 70%, indicated the money “freed up” other parts of their budget.
Of those, 36% said they intended to spend or had spent on items they would not have bought absent the scheme.
Over a quarter (27%) said it would go to pay bills or reducing debt.