Northern Irish finance minister Conor Murphy today announced funding of £95 million for a High Street Voucher Scheme for a pre-paid card for use on the high street as part of a £300m covid rescue package.
Last month the Scottish Retail Consortium published its recommendations for the upcoming Scottish Budget, which called on Scottish Ministers to investigate establishing a retail voucher scheme in Scotlan in order to support consumer spending and aid shops left reeling by Coronavirus.
Other initiatives suggested by the SRC included free parking in the run-up to Christmas to encourage shoppers into towns.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “The pandemic-induced restrictions and economic downturn have weighed on consumer demand, with retail amongst the most affected sectors. Shopper footfall is down by a third, shop vacancies are at a five-year high, and Scottish stores have missed out on £2.5 billion of revenues over the past eight months. The forced closure of so-called non-essential stores under the existing local lockdowns over the next three weeks is likely to see these stores miss out on a further £270 million of income.
“Scotland’s shops will ultimately only survive with the patronage of the public. Retailers are playing their part in trying to tempt shoppers, but policy makers here need to think more creatively too about how they can reignite and stimulate consumer confidence and entice people back to our retail destinations. This could be through free parking for the fortnight prior to Christmas, once non-essential shops are permitted to re-open, or a retail voucher scheme to help stores and high streets through the leaner winter months in the early part of the new year.”
Retail voucher schemes have recently been introduced in Malta and Jersey to help shoppers and stores during the pandemic.
The population of Norther Ireland is about a third of that of Scotland, meaning that if the Scottish Government introduced a similar-sized scheme in Scotland, it would cost around £285 million.