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Why we used Scotland Loves Local Gift Cards for our staff: Urquhart Opticians

Lynn Atkinson, optical assistant at Urquhart Opticians in Prestwick. The business is one of a number in the town spreading the message to Choose Local as part of the Scotland Loves Local campaign. October 2021. Picture: Jamie Simpson / Scotland's Towns Partnership

Peter Telfer, managing director at Urquhart Opticians and chair of the Kilmarnock Business Association tells us why they used Scotland Loves Local Gift Cards to reward staff

“Kilmarnock Business Association and its businesses work closely with East Ayrshire Council on the East Ayrshire Gift Card as part of a shared vision to improve our high streets. On our own, Kilmarnock Business Association wouldn’t have had the funds to launch the East Ayrshire Gift Card. This shared vision, and collaboration with Cumnock Business Association and East Ayrshire Council allowed us to get the funding we needed.

“Collaboration avoids duplication. Without it, good work may be done with good intentions but when we work together it allows us to cut through with a stronger message. If we say the same things, in the same way- such as the need to shop local- then it is far more likely to resonate with the end user than if we are all working to our own agenda. It also means that everyone is incentivised to make the project successful.

“The pandemic has been a great leveller in East Ayrshire. Different organisations had to come together and were highly motivated to make it work. It’s not a case of businesses on one side, and the council on the other, we are all on the same team.

“With a positive team, and applying the local lens to all projects, we’ve been able to come up with ideas such as using the East Ayrshire Gift Card in Christmas boxes for families in need, which have been truly beneficial to the whole community.

“Urquhart Opticians has 8 practices in Scotland, in Ayr, Saltcoats, Kilmarnock, Stranraer, Kilwinning, Troon, Prestwick and West Kilbride. Our team came up with our business values, including the value of care and community so it made sense for us to reward our staff with local gift cards that benefit the community.

“Urquhart Opticians is a local business and 99% of our customers come from within a few miles radius of each practice. As well as serving our community, we rely on our local customers to survive as a business. By purchasing our local East Ayrshire Gift Card, and the new Scotland Loves Local Gift Cards for North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire for our staff, we’re putting a gift card in their hands knowing that when they spend it, that money directly benefits local economies and local businesses.

“Staff were really appreciative of their local gift cards. For us as a business, it was a really positive message. Why would we, as a local business, give out vouchers where the benefit leaves our area? It also has other benefits for staff in that it encourages them to use their local shops and services as much as possible. There is a perception that shopping locally costs more. But with a gift card in their hand, employees might feel more inclined to give that restaurant a go, or go into a shop they like the look of but have never been inside. There is lots of choice and it’s simple for our employees to use.

“Everything you do as a business owner can positively impact the community. We know that if we paint the outside of one of our practices, that it’ll encourage other shops to do the same. If we sweep outside the practice, it contributes to a more pleasant high street. Supporting the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card programme is an extension of that. It’s something positive we can all do when we are rewarding and incentivising our staff.

“I think the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card initiative is fantastic because it drives a national, consistent message of shop local, with real high level communication to support the schemes. The Scotland Loves Local Gift Card programme must be one of the most joined up high street initiatives we’ve ever seen, and an example of what we can do as a nation with real benefits for communities. The more businesses sign up to the Scotland Loves Local Gift Cards, the more people buy them, the more businesses that use them for the staff rewards, the greater the impact for our local high streets.”