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Trade local scheme to get a new push

DARTMOUTH’S shop local loyalty card is getting a push for the autumn.
One Dartmouth hotelier says he is switching his normal in-house loyalty card – and all of its 550 holders – over to the Dartmouth brand.
While another trader has already given away almost 400 cards to customers.
But the keep-it-local scheme launched this summer has generally got off to a slow start and businesses are being urged to get on board.
Dartmouth Business Improvement District, which set up the scheme, is hoping more shops, restaurants, hotels and leisure providers will take up the card, which they believe is a golden opportunity to promote the town brand with special discounts for users.
‘The uptake by businesses has been slow partly due to it being the summer season, partly due to it being a BID initiative, and some see it as we are asking them to give something away free,’ said BID manager Alison Steere.
‘Well, it may be a BID initiative but it’s been paid for by the businesses and it seems a shame for them not to make the most of this scheme.
‘It has been a slow start and it was never the intention to heavily promote the card scheme during the summer, but we really want to highlight it again and have a second push during the autumn when our levy payers need the new business more.’
Some 24 businesses are currently registered promoting offers on the website.
‘We now have a mailing list of 365 local residents who have the loyalty card, as well as a further database of over 450-plus business levy payers who also receive the offers and updates,’ said Alison.
She said while it was hoped more business would get involved in the scheme, the feedback so far has been positive, with varying results on uptake depending on the discount.
‘Most businesses will, at some point during the year, offer a promotion and this is a way of marketing that to a wider audience at no additional cost to themselves,’ she added.
‘Others can see how successful it could be if it was fully supported.
‘It would great to see more offers covering a wider range of shops and services, so that local residents and our neighbours throughout the South Hams will make the effort, regardless of parking, to come to Dartmouth.
‘It’s not just for shopping in the town centre, we want to encourage all businesses to join the scheme.’
But not everyone is convinced of the scheme’s benefits.
Linda Howard, who runs Dartmouth Pet Foods, said: ‘I don’t want anything to do with it. I do my own loyalty thing for customers.’
In contrast, Simon and Diana Pepper, of Peppers World Foods in Duke Street, said they believe the card is a positive way to get people shopping locally.
‘We have given out over 380 cards to regular customers who like the idea of getting discounts at the same time as supporting Dart­mouth businesses,’ said Simon.
‘They seem almost disappointed when shops don’t offer it. I don’t know if it has any relevance, but we have just had our busiest week in three years of trading.’
Prana Simon, who runs Best of Heath in the Old Market, said she had about one customer a week using the loyalty card.
‘And that’s good enough for me,’ she said. ‘Anything that brings in more people.’
Anna Sewell, of nearby Chantilly Lace, said she was fully behind the loyalty card scheme but it needed more support.
‘I think it’s a great idea and lots of towns use them, but more businesses need to get involved to encourage people to use it,’ she said.
James Brown, who has run Brown’s Hotel in Victoria Road, for the past 14 years said: ‘We are gradually phasing out our own card scheme, which we have successfully run for seven years, in favour of the Dartmouth loyalty card. All the benefits will be transferred over.
‘It makes good sense to me to support something that encourages people to shop and buy locally. People have to recognise they need to spend money in town if they want local businesses and not brands. It’s less Amazon and more local shopping.’
Mr Brown said he was fully behind the BID and the opportunities it presented in supporting growth and profitability in the town.
‘The BID has put a significant amount of money into the heart of Dartmouth,’ he said. ‘There is fantastic potential and they have a great set of tools to help transform the well being of the town. It’s really the only game in town.’
But he said it needed goodwill and good luck and he feared the BID had been hijacked by a small number of critics who had ‘seized the agenda, failed to understand and wasted a great deal of management time’, which was a great sadness.
‘The town needs to get behind the BID and try things, otherwise they are missing an opportunity,’ he said.
‘Bring me a business and I will show you the potential benefits the BID can bring.’

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