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New gift card aims to boost Bishop's Stortford town centre

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Bishop's Stortford Business Improvement District (BID) has launched a new gift card to boost trade in the town centre.

The prepaid Mastercard can be spent with over 50 businesses, including The Little Arts Workshop, Coffee House and ProCook.

It operates like a debit card, with the amount spent automatically deducted from the gift card value.

Town Centre, Bishop's Stortford. Cllr Kieth Warnell (Mayor BS) and Gina Thomas (BID) promoting The Mayor's award for local businesses and BID. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (48978247)
Town Centre, Bishop's Stortford. Cllr Kieth Warnell (Mayor BS) and Gina Thomas (BID) promoting The Mayor's award for local businesses and BID. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (48978247)

Gina Thomas, Bishop's Stortford's BID manager, said: "The BID is very excited to launch our latest initiative to help support our town centre businesses. The gift card provides a great way to keep spending local and encourage people into town. It also makes the perfect gift for anyone, with options to spend with a range of retailers, eating and drinking out, on hair and beauty treatments and much more."

The aim is to keep as much money as possible locked into Bishop's Stortford's high street and give shops and services a post-pandemic boost.

Cards can be purchased online from www.bishopsstortfordgiftcard.com in values of £5 to £500. Bulk orders are also available so they can be used as incentives and rewards for businesses and other organisations.

Louise and Georgia at Coffee House (48978524)
Louise and Georgia at Coffee House (48978524)

Coffee House, one of South Street's independent cafés, has signed up to take part.

Louise Flynn owns the business with daughter Georgia and hoped the gift card would encourage people to be more experimental:

"We were planning to take over Coffee House as the pandemic hit, and used the time to refurbish everything, and then opened as soon as we could for takeaway. Georgia is front of house and I'm in the kitchen. It has been hard work, with six days a week in the café but our regulars have supported us all along. As well as coffee, we offer breakfasts, lunches, milkshakes and hope to be able to open in the evenings in the future for cocktails and live music, giving locals a place to chill.

"Residents in Bishop's Stortford really want to support local. There's a strong community here and small businesses play a big part in that. A lot of people were on their own during the lockdowns, working from home, and with no one to talk to. We know all our regulars, what they like to eat and drink but we've also got time for a chat. It's that personal touch.

The ProCook team (48978547)
The ProCook team (48978547)

"I think the Bishop's Stortford Gift Card is a good idea, for locals but also for visitors. The town has a splash pool, a train station, there's lots going on so with people not going abroad as much this year, hopefully, we'll have visitors too, coming to Bishop's Stortford to spend their gift card. When people receive a gift card, it might also encourage them to be more experimental, and try new businesses."

As well as independent businesses, national retailers and brands are part of the Bishop's Stortford Gift Card scheme.

ProCook in South Street will accept the payment and the chain is already part of a similar scheme in Bury St Edmunds. Teresa Smith, region manager, said: "When ProCook bought Steamer Trading out of administration, we took over the store here in Bishop's Stortford, saving lots of jobs. We still have most of the original team in place. Our store was closed over lockdown but we're back, welcoming customers, doing our in-store demos and being a part of the community.

Jessica at Little Arts Workshop (48978551)
Jessica at Little Arts Workshop (48978551)

"When I heard from the BID that they were introducing a Bishop's Stortford Gift Card, I thought it was a great idea to drive footfall back into the town. Our Bury St Edmunds store is part of the Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card and we've seen sales through it. I imagine that as we gear up for Christmas once more, we'll see even more gift card sales.

"It's vital to have your independent businesses in a town centre, alongside your nationals, as they support each other. People might visit the town to visit a particular national brand, and the independents benefit, or vice versa. With the Bishop's Stortford Gift Card, people can spend a little here and there, which will be beneficial to all businesses."

Jessica Townsend Melton, the founder of The Little Arts Workshop, which opened in July 2019 at Southmill Road, said: "I think the gift card is a great idea to keep small businesses going but also to give someone a gift of choice. It's hard to know what to get someone as a gift, say a new baby or a birthday. We started baby hand and foot clay prints which have been really popular. It's nice that people can spend their gift card on experiences too, like our Friday late night bring a bottle painting sessions.

"It really does make a world of difference to small businesses when you shop locally."

The Bishop's Stortford Gift Card is part of the award-winning Town and City Gift Cards programme from fintech Miconex. There are over 60 Town and City Gift Card schemes around the UK and Ireland, including Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds and two other schemes in Hertfordshire – Watford and St Albans.

Colin Munro, managing director of Miconex, said: "Following the pandemic, consumers understand the necessity of shopping locally, and the difference it makes to the vibrancy and continuation of town centres."

Businesses can register to join the scheme by emailing gina@bishopsstortfordbid.co.uk. Find out more about the gift card at www.bishopsstortfordgiftcard.com

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