The High Street voucher scheme brought almost 1.4million shoppers out to Northern Ireland shops where they made over 3.7m transactions, spending £136m, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons told the Assembly as he published new data on the scheme.
In a statement in the chamber, the minister said the scheme led to an improved level of consumer confidence and increased levels of public spending. The department published further information on the scheme:
The minister said data would be released later on which type of shops the money was spent in.
The minister said: “The High Street Scheme has been a huge success and achieved exactly what it set out to do.
"It brought shoppers back on to the high street and has helped and supported our local retail, hospitality and service sectors start their journey of recovery from the devastating impact of the pandemic. “I am really pleased to announce that 1,399,051 people were issued with a Spend Local card, of which 1,393,043 – or 99.6% – were activated. This is a tremendous achievement. The scheme was designed to provide an economic boost to the local economy and to this end £136.6million has been injected into the economy “This can be clearly seen from the fact that nearly 1.4million customers visited our local shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, cinemas, hairdressers across all parts of Northern Ireland during the lifetime of the scheme and over 3.7million new transactions were made using the Spend Local card. “Of course, we know that many of these customers will have spent more than the £100 on their Spend Local card. So the figure – in real terms – will be greater.” The minister told the Assembly that the early analysis showed the benefits of the scheme were enjoyed in all parts of Northern Ireland. MLAs heard how the scale of the task of delivering the high street scheme was unprecedented as, in a matter of weeks, the department implemented a process which manufactured, dispatched and delivered cards to close to 1.4million people – each card unique to each applicant, including bespoke embossed cards for the visually impaired and blind. The minister added: “The effort was worth it. I am sure that members will have heard the same positive messages that I have heard from businesses, but it has also been confirmed by independent analysis.” According to an Ulster Bank Survey, retail sales in Northern Ireland rose in November 2021 for the first time in four months. The bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey said the High Street Scheme undoubtedly contributed to the pick-up in demand. Research in December 2021 also showed an increase in shoppers on Northern Ireland’s high streets. The figures published by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) showed a boost to the number of people going into shops or businesses in October continuing in November following the introduction of the High Street Scheme. In November, the number of shoppers in Northern Ireland reached their highest point so far compared to the pre-pandemic level. Minister Lyons added: “The people from which I was most pleased to hear were the business owners who needed the scheme to help them cope with the impact of the pandemic. On a personal level, these individuals – shopkeepers, barbers, newsagents, publicans, cafe owners, the list goes on – brought it home to me why this scheme was so important.”
Amount spent in local council areas: