23 March 2022
The best thing we’ve done in our town. The Carndonagh Gift Card
Background to the Carndonagh Gift Card
In March 2021, the Irish town named as Ireland’s most enterprising in the 2020 Bank of Ireland Begin Together Awards launched its own gift card. The Carndonagh Gift Card was set up by the Carndonagh Traders’ Association and can be spent with over 45 businesses in Carndonagh, including shops, restaurants, pubs, cafés, hotels, services and leisure. Over €110,000 of Carndonagh Gift Cards were sold in the first year, which can be bought from the Visit Carndonagh Tourist Information Centre and online.
Deirdre Bradley is Chairperson of the Carndonagh Traders’ Association and Davin Doherty is the Secretary of the Carndonagh Traders Association. Both Deirdre and Davin are also local business owners:
Why did you want to introduce a gift card for your town, what were the aims?
Davin: “The Carndonagh Traders’ Association is a voluntary organisation. We used to have a paper gift voucher scheme but it was too admin heavy for us as an Association and too time consuming and expensive for our businesses, so it didn’t work. We were keen to introduce a more efficient, modern system, especially to get the younger people in the community on board.
“Corporate sales was another reason. At Christmas 2020, we had large, local employers wanting to buy gift cards for Carndonagh and we had to say we didn’t have one. That was income that went to a different town. We also wanted a gift card to encourage tourism and make the town a destination in itself. Carndonagh is the gateway to Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head, which attracts 200,000 visitors each year. Before we introduced our card, these tourists were driving through Carndonagh.”
How was the idea of the Carndonagh Gift Card received by merchants?
Davin: “No matter what we do in Carndonagh, the community is 100% behind us and it was the same for the gift card. When we were up for the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town Awards in 2019, the judges visited us at a packed community hall first thing in the morning. Our community were ready to show just what makes our town special. As soon as the news got out that we were setting up our own local gift card, people were ringing up and asking when they could get the gift card.”
What have been the results of the Carndonagh Gift Card?
Deirdre: “We’ve been blown away by the success of the Carndonagh Gift Card. 1915 gift cards to the value of €110,000 purchased is impressive but when you think that the value of every euro spent locally is multiplied by 4, that is a lot of businesses safe, and a lot of jobs secured. People are buying them every day and people are using them every day. I get a Carndonagh Gift Card spent at the store most days, and it makes a big difference to our takings. For me, and other business owners, knowing we have €110,000 that has to be spent here in Carndonagh is so positive and is something to look forward to.
“I sold a €100 Carndonagh Gift Card today that was being bought as a birthday gift. The good thing is that the benefit of that €100 will likely be spread out right across Carndonagh as the recipient spends a little here and there. We feel like we’ve our own currency now. Popular places for people to redeem their gift cards are the local oil company, the independent supermarket as well as health and beauty places; the small businesses are really benefiting. It also goes to show what a great gift it is to give. A person can spend their card putting diesel in the car, fuel in the fire, or food on the table. Or they can treat themselves to a treatment or a new outfit. Even our local vet takes the cards. With the cost of living going up so much, gifts that are flexible to personal circumstances matter more than ever.”
Please tell us about your marketing and PR activities
Deirdre: “We worked with Miconex on our launch activity and we had press coverage in local and national press. As a voluntary organisation, the Carndonagh Traders’ Association relies on fundraising so the development and success of our gift card has been organic and is testament to the support of our community. With minimal funding to promote the gift card, we use the Visit Carndonagh website to advertise the card, the Traders’ Association use the cards for any events, and businesses promote that they accept the cards.”
Has the Carndonagh Gift Card helped you with your original aims?
Deirdre: “Lots of local employers use the Carndonagh Gift Card for their staff rewards, taking advantage of the ability to give staff a non-cash €500 reward, tax free. Being able to give employers a local way to reward staff was one of the main reasons we started the gift card, and we’re really happy we did. Out of all the things we’ve done in the town, the Carndonagh Gift Card has to be the best because it has helped so many businesses. Everyone gets a slice of the pie. It also helped us to increase our membership, because businesses want to be a part of the initiative.
“All age groups are buying them. Our local schools have embraced it and used the Carndonagh Gift Card as a small reward for pupils. It’s an introduction to the gift card and to them buying independently and locally. Then we’ll have children who are slightly older in at the Tourist Information Centre buying a gift card for their mum for Mother’s Day or as a present.
“It definitely brings in new customers too, especially from other towns like Buncrana and Malin Head. With a gift card in their pocket, people will make the effort to come here. All our businesses say they’ve had new customers through the card. We’ve had a very successful first year of the Carndonagh Gift Card, which is really down to our community getting behind the initiative. In 2022, we’re looking forward to keeping on growing our gift card and helping even more businesses.”