NI High Street Voucher Scheme contract awarded to Irish fintech

  • The contract for Northern Ireland's £145m High Street Scheme has been awarded to Prepaid Financial Services (PFS), and is due to be rolled out in September. 

    The scheme will give everyone aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland a pre-paid card worth £100 to spend on their local high street in brick-and-mortar shops and restaurants, to bring business back to local high streets that have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

    The Department for the Economy said it is planned that the registration process will open to the public in just over a month and Economy Minister Gordon Lyons urged members of the public to sign up for the electoral register if they have not already done so, as his department plans to use the register to check registrations for the High Street Scheme.

    “It will mean up to 1.4m people will have an extra £100 each to spend on our high streets rather than online," said the minister. "This will help bring many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and other sectors."

    PFS is an Irish fintech firm that helps governments worldwide make quick payments. 

    So far, 562 separate initiatives similar to NI's prepaid card scheme have been assisted by the company's payments technology.

    RELATED: Irish FinTech firm PFS delivers government Covid-19 stimulus using prepaid cards

    Lee Britton, CEO Europe at PFS, said: ''We are delighted to have been awarded this contract. Our award-winning economic stimulus product trusted by governments worldwide will help to give a huge financial boost to the Northern Ireland economy.”

    “This scheme is a win-win for our members and our high streets. It will be a significant spending boost for struggling independent retailers as we progress the long road toward recovery," added Retail NI Chief Executive, Glyn Roberts.

    “70p in every pound spent with an independent retailer is recycled around the economy, supporting local producers, farmers and manufacturers. So it is vital that consumers make a special effort to spend this pre-paid card with local traders to ensure the widest possible boost to our economy.” 

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    Retail Economics, which performs data insights on retail trends, carried out research on how, when and where the voucher scheme could impact on consumer spending.

    The researchers made use of outturn data from a similar scheme which operated in Jersey and information from the Office for National Statistics. A consumer panel survey was also conducted, reflecting a nationally representative sample of 1,000 households in Northern Ireland.

    Minister Lyons said "the results of the consumer panel show that there is evidence that the scheme will encourage shoppers back on the high street, to support local independent businesses and to spend their card in those sectors that have faced difficulties trading in the past year.

    "Many respondents considered that it would encourage them to visit physical locations. The Covid health restrictions will need to be monitored closely and taken into account as we move forward," he concluded. 

    Health Minister Robin Swann recently said he would consider supporting linking the voucher scheme to people being fully vaccinated, but Mr Lyons told BBC Radio Ulster's The Nolan Show that he would not back such a proposal, which the Department for the Economy confirming Mr Lyons' view. 

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