An “evolution” of the Spend Local scheme involving discounts encouraging islanders to hit the high street is under consideration, according to the Assistant Minister with responsibility for retail.
Deputy Kirsten Morel's comments followed the publication of a report that praised the success of last year's initiative to gift every man, woman and child £100 to spend locally, but concluded that it was “likely to have been a one-off event, despite consideration being given to a second tranche."
It outlined how 97.5% of the £100 cards given out to every islander last year to help stimulate the economy were activated, and £10,123,361 was spent locally as a result.
However, whilst it says “most elements [of the scheme] worked well”, the report did suggest Ministers “investigate ways to better target and maximise the positive impact on sectors most affected by the downturn”, having found the scheme “had not been targeted to maximise the positive impact on sectors most affected by the downturn.”
Agreeing with the report's findings, Deputy Morel told Express there was “not a demand at the moment” for a repeat of the Spend Local scheme as it was, as retail is suffering in “different ways” compared to after lockdown.
Pictured: Assistant Economic Development Minister, Kirsten Morel, said that a card that allowed people to access local discounts could be a good way to drive retail in the high street.
Rather than facing the challenge of people not being willing to spend, retail is now struggling with staff shortages and rent prices, which a reintroduction of the scheme would not help with, the Assistant Minister explained.
However, he said that a variation of Spend Local may be possible - one in which the Government would not give out money, but islanders would instead be offered discount cards to incentivise them to shop locally rather than online.
“There’s potentially a role to play for the card to evolve into something broader - a locally focused card that enables people to have money on it to spend locally, and access discounts,” he explained.
Though he explained it was too “early” to provide further details on the idea, he suggested it could also help businesses deal with inflation.
He continued: “In the next couple of years, we’re going to see significant inflation in Jersey [which will be] a challenge for businesses and local consumers, so anything we can do to encourage islanders to shop locally instead of going online, which is where the idea of using this card in a more rounded way comes in.”
Pictured: Deputy Morel said a local discount scheme using a card system could help encourage islanders to shop in town rather than online.
Last year Express launched Bailiwick Premium which offers hundreds of discounted offers at local businesses, and access to some editorial content, for a membership fee of £4.95 a month.
Deputy Morel also suggested creating spaces for younger, newer retailers in their 20s and 30s to try out new businesses, with risks around debt mitigated.
“I’m really keen to find spaces where we can invite retailers to set up with new ideas at a low rent, so if the idea fails, it can fail without having incurred large amount of debt,” he said.
He added that: “As Minister for retail policy, I’m not going to be the person creating the innovative ideas for businesses, we just need to help provide the [retailers] with places they can try these ideas.”
Whilst he emphasised these are all currently early ideas, the Deputy did add that one initiative currently underway was a small retailers forum that businesses could join to “speak directly” to Government so they could “better understand the challenges they are facing.”
The forum’s first meeting was held last month, and the Deputy urged any retailers who wished to join to get in contact.
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