CAFES in Barrhead and Neilston have claimed a gift card scheme has helped them stay open and brought them in new revenue.

It comes after café owners from across the area have said the Scotland Loves Local scheme has boosted customers’ well-being, brought in new customers, and helped businesses to keep running.

The Pad in Neilston and Café 136 in Barrhead have been two of the most popular places for people to spend their gift cards, which were issued by East Renfrewshire Council.

Barrhead News: Lindsey LarkinLindsey Larkin (Image: Supplied)

Lindsey Larkin, co-owner of The Pad, said: “Linda and I opened The Pad, which is a wee café/bistro, in July 2016.

“It’s open all day serving hot filled rolls, homemade cakes, and desserts.

“We joined the scheme as we liked the fact that it was free for us to sign up to accept the card.

“And, as the card is a prepaid Mastercard, any spend through the card comes to us automatically like any other payment.”

Lindsey continued: “When the gift card was distributed by East Renfrewshire Council (ERC), they started being used at The Pad quite quickly.

“It was mainly older people who used their cards with us, spending a little on a coffee or a cake. I liked the fact that the cards were giving something back to the community by offering tangible support for residents and for businesses.

“A lot of people have cut back on their spending during the cost of living crisis, especially on eating out because it is considered a treat.

“The distribution of the card meant that people were able to continue to use businesses like ours and gave them a chance to socialise too. It was a real bonus, especially the fact that they didn’t have to go far to spend the cards, there were lots of businesses right on their doorstep.

“We’ve definitely had new customers into The Pad as a result of the gift card distribution, and many have continued to come in too.

“It has really helped us as a business in getting our name out there, bringing in new revenue and helping us to keep going in these challenging times.”

The cards were distributed by the local authority to households in receipt of council tax reductions at the end of 2022, and they were also available to buy online.

In total, over £330,000 has now been redeemed in local businesses.

Barrhead News: Staff member and customers outside Cafe 136 in BarrheadStaff member and customers outside Cafe 136 in Barrhead (Image: Supplied)

David Henry, owner of Café 136 in Barrhead, said he has also seen new customers in his store thanks to the card.

The café, located on Main Street, is a family business which has been running for 18 years.

David said: “We heard about the East Renfrewshire Gift Card at an event in Barrhead.

“I decided to sign up because I thought it was a great idea that would be good for local businesses and the local economy.

“When ERC distributed the gift cards to low-income households, it helped a lot of people.

“Many are struggling, and the gift card meant they could get a bit of lunch, buy a greeting card from the card shop, or get some food.

“I think it helped people to feel normal, to feel looked after, and boosted their mental health.

“It was important to us that our customers felt comfortable spending their card with us.

“The stickers we had in the window advertising that we accept the gift card helped people to feel reassured that they know they would be welcomed when they came into the café to use their card.”

David continued to say: “Four to five months down the line from the cards first being distributed, we’re still getting people into the café to spend their cards.

“We’ve noticed new people coming into the café as a result of the gift card and they’ve become regular customers too.

“It’s helping people to feel part of their community to socialise and to take an active role in the success of where they live.

“What’s brilliant is that whether the cards were used in my café or another café or shop, it is all helping East Renfrewshire businesses.”

East Renfrewshire Council Leader, Owen O’Donnell, said: “It’s been six months since we issued the gift cards and it’s really assuring when we hear how the scheme has supported low-income households.

“Not only has it benefited residents, but as David and Lindsey highlight, it also provided the local economy with a vital sales boost and continues to do so.”

The Scotland Loves Local Gift Card scheme was introduced by Scotland’s Towns Partnership in 2021.

Kimberley Guthrie, STP’s Interim Chief Officer said: “The Scotland Loves Local East Renfrewshire Gift Card is a fantastic success story, demonstrating a real win-win for people and businesses – when both have rarely needed that help more.”