Businesses have told how a scheme which delivered £100 gift cards to thousands of East Renfrewshire residents has given trade a much-needed boost.

East Renfrewshire Council distributed the ‘Scotland Loves Local’ cards to more than 4,500 low-income households in the area late last year.

Since then, 82% of them have been activated and around £270,000 has been redeemed in local businesses.

Among those to benefit is Country Feeds Pet Supplies and Pet Parlour, in Barrhead.

Co-owner Kirsty Lafferty said: “I think you get so much more when you shop locally, especially with a family-run business. It’s not just about the sale but also the ongoing advice.

“East Renfrewshire Council using the gift card to distribute funds to low-income families is a great idea because it keeps money local and supports households that are struggling, giving them lots of choice of where to spend their gift card.

“A pet is part of the family and people have appreciated being able to use their card to stock up on their pet’s regular food or even buy something bigger like a new bed for their dog.

“I think the choice on offer with the East Renfrewshire Gift Card is absolutely key, including high street stores and independents.

“Most people spending their East Renfrewshire Gift Card with us are regulars but we’ve had new customers too. Even after 30 years in Barrhead, people will still come into the shop and say they didn’t know we were here.

“It’s surprising but just goes to show that people really do need an incentive to go into their local town, see what’s there and actually go inside businesses they’ve never been in before.”

The gift card scheme has also been a boost for Charles Frazer Quality Meats, based at The Avenue Shopping Centre, in Newton Mearns.

Stuart Adams, who owns the independent butchers, said attracting new customers is vital to the longevity of small businesses.

He added: “Charles Frazer has been here for 34 years and has a lot of valued, older customers but we also need new younger customers who understand and appreciate the value of shopping local so we can be here for another 34 years.

“We’re also getting repeat business through the gift card. Shopping local is like a club – you get to know the staff, you have a chat, you enjoy the products when you get home and you develop a loyalty to the shop.”

The Scotland Loves Local East Renfrewshire Gift Card was distributed to households that are eligible for council tax reduction.

Once activated, the cards can be used at more than 130 businesses in East Renfrewshire.

The deadline for activating the cards is Wednesday, March 1, and they are valid for a year.

The scheme is supported by the Scottish Government’s Local Authority Economic Recovery Fund, which aims to stimulate business activity following the Covid-19 pandemic.

East Renfrewshire Council leader Owen O’Donnell said: “I am really pleased that we were able to support low-income households with this scheme.

“Not only has it benefited residents but it also provided the local economy with a vital sales boost.

“We’re committed to supporting the East Renfrewshire community as we continue to recover from the pandemic and will offer any help we can with tackling the cost-of-living crisis.