Shoppers should "be patient" when applying for Northern Ireland's high street voucher scheme ahead of applications opening on Monday, according to Retail NI. he retail group said the public should consider making their application later in the week and spreading out demand on the online portal ahead of an expected rush to apply on day one. Around 1.4m people will be eligible to receive the pre-paid card loaded with GBP100 to spend. Anyone over the age of 18 will be eligible to apply for the scheme, with the card able to be spent in "bricks and mortar" businesses which utilise a card machine with swipe and pin facility.
The scheme opens for applications on the NI Direct website on Monday, with the last day to apply for the voucher being October 25. The card cannot be used after November 30. The scheme - which is expected to cost up to GBP145m to roll out across Northern Ireland - is intended to provide a significant autumn boost to the retail and hospitality sector following the damage done by Covid.
"If people can wait a few days before making their application, hopefully we can avoid any delays or problems with a rush on the online portal and they will receive their voucher on a timely basis," said Retail NI chief Glyn Roberts. "With a scheme of this ambition and size we are bound to experience some problems and would urge shoppers to be patient" "As the scheme opens and consumers are thinking about how to spend their voucher, we would strongly encourage them to use with local independent retailers.
70p in every GBP1 pound spent with an independent retailer is recycled around the economy, supporting local producers and manufacturers." Anyone applying for the card is expected to receive it between seven and 10 days later. Last week, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons urged local businesses across hospitality and retail to "show their support" for the upcoming scheme.
The minister encouraged those businesses eligible to display a range of promotional material encouraging shoppers to spend the voucher to support local retailers, along with an advertising campaign that has been rolled out to encourage shoppers to support local businesses.
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