SHOPPERS are to be offered the hi-tech equivalent of old-fashioned coupons or savings stamps in a bid to encourage them to spend their money in local businesses.
Instead of collecting Co-op dividends or Green Shield stamps as people did in the 1960s and 70s, they can download a free app which will reward customers with virtual stamps for shopping locally.
The scheme – part of a bid to revive the Capital’s high streets – is being piloted in Leith and Broughton, but organisers hope it can soon be extended to other parts of the city too.
The Local Edge apps, developed by Greener Leith and the Broughton Spurtle, encourage both shoppers and businesses to work together to support the local economy.
They help users save money by collecting virtual stamps every time they make a purchase in a participating shop. When they have enough qualifying stamps, they can access a range of unique offers being promoted by local stores.
Shoppers can use their phones to scan a QR code at the till and just four stamps will be enough to earn them a reward – perhaps a discount or a free item, depending on what the individual shop decides.
Charlotte Encombe, chair of Greener Leith, said: “Our apps aim to get shoppers closer to the independent businesses in their neighbourhood and reward them for helping to keep their high streets alive.
“We’re in the process of signing up local businesses – and from there we’ll be encouraging people to sign up for the free smartphone app, and start saving on purchases they make.”
She said it was a truly local service for shoppers, aimed at increasing footfall in both Leith and Broughton and helping shops and services prosper.
“With experts predicting sweeping changes across our high streets in the next few years, it’s important that we encourage people to support local businesses – which is essential to safeguarding jobs and improving local areas.
“These apps will get shoppers closer to independent businesses and offer them an incentive to buy locally.”
More than 30 local businesses, including shops, pubs and cafes, have already said they will take part in the scheme.
Ben Gillespie of the Blue Bear cafe in Brandon Terrace, Canonmills, which has signed up, said many of his customers came from the immediate vicinity and the app would help boost business.
He predicted the idea would catch on, saying: “We’ve got our own hot drink loyalty card at the moment which is well used and if people come in regularly they often end up with a free coffee at the end of the week.
It’s the same principle, but some of our younger customers don’t bother with it – maybe it seems a bit old-fashioned using something paper-based these days. But this will be mobile phone-based with an app, it’s using the technology available.”