Boroughbridge is set to be the next Yorkshire market town to join an innovative initiative set up to encourage shoppers to use small independent shops.
Ilkley was in the vanguard of English towns to adopt the Phlok – a virtual loyalty currency which allows customers who buy from member businesses and then use tokens in others in exchange for goods.
The concept was first introduced in Eire and Northern Ireland, where businesses in more than 30 towns are members, with a reported 15,000 shoppers benefitting from special deals.
Co-founders of the independent community interest company Enterprise Rockers, Tina Boden and Tony Robinson OBE, have been spearheading the idea in North Yorkshire – but meetings have now been held with traders from Boroughbridge.
The town already boasts the Love Boroughbridge cooperative, set up to promote the community as a retail destination through the printed, broadcast and online media.
However, as more than 90 per cent of the businesses in the town centre are small independents, traders are poised to welcome the Phlok as the next step.
Love Boroughbridge spokeswoman Louise Leong said:
“It seems there’s a good chance we’ll get the critical mass we need to make the idea work well in Boroughbridge.
“We have been told we need a minimum of 15 businesses to sign up to make it worthwhile and our experience over the last few months suggests there’s an appetite for fresh ideas – particularly if they help to reinforce the ‘shop local’ message.”
December 2013 saw the UK host its first-ever Small Business Saturday – a concept imported from the USA where it has become a national phenomena.
At the time, Boroughbridge was held up as a national example of good practice as MPs and representatives from the Department for Business had heard about the Love Boroughbridge initiative.
A delegation from the town was invited to meet the Chancellor George Osborne at 10 Downing Street and to lead an online question-and-answer session hosted by the Department For Business on Small Business Saturday (December 7).
President of Boroughbridge Chamber of Trade, Barbara Lambert-Hill, said:
“It was an amazing day for those went to London but we know we can’t rest on our laurels; we need more fresh ideas to keep shoppers coming back.
“Love Boroughbridge has certainly helped with our profile but we need our customers to feel the financial benefits of shopping locally too.
“Phlok could be a sensible next step – but the more traders we can get on board, the better.
“Our job over the next few weeks is to explain the scheme to as many as possible and encourage them to give it a try.
“There’s a saying in business that all you have to do to get left behind is stand still – and I doubt there are many of us who can afford to do that.”
A unique social media concept, Phlok works on a smartphone and internet rewards platform that incentivises consumers with virtual currency, collectable and spendable with any business on the Phlok network.
When the customer spends Phlok points, Phlok pays the receiving business full value for the points spent. The business then gets full price for its item or service while the customer gets something for free.
Phlok chief executive Paul Graham said:
“Phlok’s goal is to connect local people with local businesses, incentivising consumers to shop local.
“We are immensely proud of what the company has achieved so far and believe that Phlok will encourage a revival in local shopping.
“We don’t just see this as a novelty to be used in one or two towns, but a realistic opportunity for business owners across the UK and Ireland.
“Our overall aim is to get local customers to transact more often with local businesses and support a growing, vibrant community. It means a lot to me that Phlok makes the term ‘Shop Local’ make sense.”