Spend Local cards see buyers splash out £107m to help local businesses
More than £107 million has been spent in Northern Ireland through the high street voucher scheme.
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said the scheme has led to the north's high street having the best recovery in the UK.
Under the stimulus scheme, all those over the age of 18 are eligible for a £100 pre-paid card to spend, with the aim of supporting local businesses which have been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some 1.4 million applications were made for the cards, and by today 1.39 million had been dispatched.
A Department for the Economy spokesperson said it is continuing to process outstanding applications.
Almost 10,000 further cards will be sent out in the coming days.
Those with the Spend Local cards have until December 14 to spend the money. After then, the cards will cease to be valid.
Mr Lyons has urged the public to spend whatever remains on their cards as soon as possible.
New figures published by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium have shown a boost to the number of people going into shops or businesses in October being continued in November following the introduction of the scheme.
The data shows that in November, the number of shoppers in Northern Ireland reached their highest point so far compared to the pre-pandemic level.
The consortium said this has led to Northern Ireland showing the best recovery in the UK with -5.2% on 2019 figures.
The equivalent figures for England, Wales and Scotland were -15.7%, -16.7% and -19.8% respectively.
Mr Lyons welcomed the findings.
He said: “The aim of the high street scheme has been to stimulate local businesses, including retail, hospitality and service sector outlets, which had been hit hardest during the pandemic, so I am delighted to see this research published by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.
“I would once again urge anyone who has yet to activate or use their Spend Local card to do it now. We want to see every penny possible from every £100 card spent. Spend it now, spend it all and spend it local.”
Aodhan Connolly, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director, said the scheme is “truly proving its value with a phenomenal bounce-back in footfall across Northern Ireland”.
He added: “This is hugely welcome news for retailers who have had the toughest two years on record.”
Cardholders can check their balance, view transaction history, terms and conditions or find answers to frequently asked questions relating to the cards by visiting the DfE Spend Local page – https://clients.prepaidfinancialservices.com/nistimulus/login.aspx.