A high street voucher scheme which will give everyone in Northern Ireland aged 18 and over a pre-paid card worth £100 (€118) is set to open to the public for registration in September.
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons made the announcement as he unveiled that the contract for the delivery of the scheme has been awarded to Prepaid Financial Services (PFS).
Mr Lyons also revealed a “Spend Local” logo which will feature on each of the cards which are intended to encourage spending at retailers that have been badly affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Speaking during a visit to businesses in Carrickfergus, he said: “My department is planning for the scheme to go live in September and I want to ensure everyone who is eligible can receive their pre-paid card as soon as possible after registration.
“As a first step in that process I would urge members of the public to sign up for the electoral register if they have not already done so, as we plan to use the register to check registrations for the high street scheme.”
Mr Lyons added: “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.
“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.
“I look forward to seeing the benefits this scheme will bring to the wide range of businesses situated in the heart of towns, villages and cities across Northern Ireland.”
PFS is a payments technology company.
Lee Britton, Europe chief executive 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.”
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: “The High Street Scheme is a really welcome and important way we can all support our struggling high street businesses.
“Supporting the high street not only helps the businesses, it also supports the jobs of our friends and family who work in our hospitality industry.”
Delighted to be here in not so sunny Carrickfergus to support @gordonlyons1 @Economy_NI Minister to launch the High Street Stimulus Card! And good to catch up with colleagues from @FSB_NI & @HospUlster! Make sure you register for your card! pic.twitter.com/lnbRkm56KA
— Aodhán Michael Connolly (@MichaelAodhan) July 29, 2021
Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: “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.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “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.
“Seventy pence 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.”