This was the key message from Economy Minister Gordon Lyons when he visited a number of businesses in Armagh to hear how the High Street Scheme is benefitting them.
The Minister said: “There are just days left until the applications portal closes at midnight on the 25th of October. I urge anyone who is eligible but has yet to apply for their Spend Local card to do so today. We are still at the early stages of this scheme but, to date, over £5.6million has been injected into our economy and the economic benefits are starting to be felt.
“It was good to come to Armagh to meet retailers and restaurant owners today and it was reassuring to hear that they are starting see how the High Street Scheme will help them. If you haven’t applied for your card, do so today. If you have received your card, then Spend Local. You will be helping thousands of businesses across Northern Ireland just like the ones here in Armagh.”
The Minister met with John Murray, the owner of local restaurant Embers, who said: “We are seeing more people coming into the restaurant with their Spend Local cards. There is a lot of enthusiasm about the cards. They have been a topic of conversation among diners for a number of weeks now and I think people are genuinely excited to get out there and use them.
“It has been a very challenging period for the hospitality sector, and anything designed to drive more people into our town centres is something to be welcomed.”
Alistair Robinson, owner of bicycle shop Cycleology, said: “We have already had quite a few people coming in to use their cards. They are either using the card to upgrade to a bike they have had their eye on or putting the £100 towards treating their children.
“The scheme is certainly welcome, and I hope it contributes to bringing more people, giving local business a boost. It is an added bonus that the scheme is enabling more people to get a bike and the health benefits regular cycling brings.”
Restaurateur Gavin Emerson of Uluru Bar and Grill said: “You can see as more people receive the card, more are being used in the restaurant. We have been working hard to develop additional incentives for people to use the card with us as it is important to everyone at Uluru that we can give our customers a little extra.
“It has been a tough period for a lot of people, and I hope the cards can encourage more people back into the city centre so they can enjoy the wonderful hospitality we have here in Armagh.”
The Minister also met Jim Clarke, owner of Clarke Decorate. He said: “After the first lockdown, a lot of people moved online for their shopping so any scheme that helps rejuvenate and drive people back to our high streets is to be welcomed.
“We have had a number of people using their Spend Local cards with us. If someone is decorating a couple of rooms at home, then £100 is a nice sweetener when it comes to the bill.”