New initiative launches to help UK’s local businesses stay afloat

A new initiative empowering members of the public to support much-loved local businesses and NHS staff has launched today. Local Support Vouchers aims to help independent cafes, restaurants & shops across the UK stay afloat during the pandemic by enabling people to buy vouchers or pledge support for their favourite local businesses, to keep them going until they can re-open.

Thousands of small businesses don’t have the systems in place to offer vouchers. Local Support Vouchers makes it easy for businesses to offer vouchers to customers, helping them secure a vital source of revenue whilst their doors are closed. Customers can buy them for themselves, gift to a friend, or ‘pay it forward’ to local NHS workers.

Customers can also pledge their support for a favourite business that isn’t yet signed up to the platform, by searching for them on the platform and committing to buy a voucher from them once they register. Local Support Vouchers will contact the business to let them know that funds have been pledged; and once they’re signed up, customers will be notified so they can complete their voucher purchase and help that business stay afloat. Users can also show their support and solidarity by nominating their favourite business via an online form, to encourage them to sign up.

The idea for Local Support Vouchers came from Chris Giddins, the founder of B2B voucher tech platform, Uniqodo. Working mainly with travel clients, Chris’ business has been hard hit by the crisis. But, instead of despairing, Chris and his team decided to put their expertise and spare time to good use by creating a simple way for businesses to offer vouchers to their regulars.

Chris comments:

“The early days of this crisis saw many of us encouraged to ‘buy vouchers’ for the businesses we knew to be struggling. But for most independent shops or restaurants, it’s not that simple. Setting up the processes and payment systems for vouchers is actually quite technical; beyond the current capabilities of most small businesses who have a lot to deal with right now. As a company, we’re struggling too, but we didn’t want to sit idly by and do nothing. The tech expertise of my team meant we could help these businesses and support the NHS at the same time. ”

Any UK business can sign up for free, allowing customers to purchase gift vouchers for themselves or loved ones. Shoppers also have the option of donating vouchers to local NHS staff. Vouchers can be redeemed when businesses re-open and the NHS donations will be kept ‘on tab’ by each business for healthcare staff to use when they can.

Local Support Vouchers charge a small processing fee of 3% per voucher to cover the running costs of the site.

Chris adds:

“Our mission is to support the brilliant local businesses that are the lifeblood of our towns, communities and high streets by empowering loyal customers to invest in their future. Thousands of small businesses are struggling in the face of this crisis. By enabling the public to back them by purchasing gift vouchers we hope we can provide a lifeline to those in need of support. We’re also really encouraging the public to nominate their favourite businesses to join the platform, so that loyal customers can show their support by purchasing vouchers to use down the line. It could make all the difference.

“We take care of all the technical bits, so that local British businesses can focus on getting the word out to their communities and encouraging customers to get behind them or pay it forward to the NHS. This way, people can support the businesses they love in such difficult times and local businesses can continue to thrive.”

The initiative has already seen interest from hundreds of businesses up and down the country who are in need of help in the current climate.

Hannah Watfa, owner of Energise Pentney Fitness & Spa in Norfolk, comments:

“We run a business offering spa facilities, gym membership and holiday lets. We only took it over a year ago and have poured our heart and souls into getting it off the ground. The lockdown has naturally had a huge impact on us, with all of our services temporarily closed. We had always meant to set up a system for offering vouchers, but just never had the time. So it was high on our list once the crisis hit.  

“It has and continues to be a stressful time, but one thing that’s really floored us was just how kind our local community and regulars have been. So many have reached out to see how they can help. The ability to sell vouchers online is a lifeline, as is having an easy way of getting the word out. We’re also committed to giving back to the NHS once we re-open our services and I know a lot of our customers are keen to pay it forward as well. We’re all connected, so each gesture of support goes a long way.”

Jo Hilditch, Managing Director, White Heron Properties

“Like so many others, we’ve seen bookings for our holiday properties fall away over the last month. We’ve actually had a lot of loyal customers enquiring about vouchers, which has been lovely, but we simply haven’t got the infrastructure in place to make it happen, especially given how much else has been going on. Local Support Vouchers is a great initiative and will allow us to offer vouchers in a meaningful way. We’re really excited to start getting the word out.”