BUSINESSES in Omagh have urged people to spend their £100 High Street vouchers locally, with applications for the long-awaited pre-paid card to open later this month.
Launched by The Department for the Economy this week, the online application portal for the ‘Spend Local’ scheme will be open from September 27 until October 25.
Applications by the telephone will also be taken from October 11.
Everyone over the age of 18 who successfully applies will receive a voucher worth £100 that can be spent in any local high street store.
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has warned that the volume of applicants could be high.
He said, “I would encourage everyone who is over 18 by October 25 this year, to apply for their card between September 27 and October 25.
“We expect demand to be high so please be patient if the online portal is busy just after it opens. It’s important to remember that everyone will have at least four weeks to spend their card.”
He added, “By applying, receiving, and ultimately spending your ‘Spend Local’ card in local businesses such as shops, hospitality, and other services before November 30, you will be doing your bit to support your local businesses.”
The first cards will be issued from October and can be spent until November 30.
Businesses in Omagh have asked for the people to think carefully about where they use their card and have encouraged people to spend it in locally-run businesses.
Kathryn Watterson, who is a member of the Watterson family who own a retail drapery business in the centre of Omagh, has said that she has been ‘encouraged’ by the new scheme.
She said, “We are extremely encouraged by the new voucher scheme being launched by the government.
All local businesses will welcome the emphasis to shop local after a long spell of hardship.
“I am sure the voucher will be welcomed by customers especially at the start of Christmas trading or perhaps for a well deserved treat for themselves.”
Brenda O’Donnell, who is the owner of House of Vixen ladies and children’s boutique in the town, has said she would encourage people to use the card in “their own town”.
She said, “It is welcome news to have the dates confirmed for the roll-out of the voucher scheme. We will be greatly appreciative to everyone that decides to spend their voucher in our store.
“It has been a tough two years for everyone, and the voucher scheme can be seen as an opportunity to treat yourself or kids to something nice.
“I would encourage people to spend their vouchers in their own town and support the local businesses which in turn will give our local economy the boost that it needs.”
West Tyrone MP Órfhlaith Begley has encouraged people to spend the £100 High Street Voucher scheme locally.
She said, “I would encourage everyone to support our local businesses by spending this voucher in our local towns and villages.
“This scheme is about injecting money into our hard-pressed businesses. It will assist in the economic recovery while providing workers, families and local businesses with support after a long and difficult 18 months.”
She also has made a request for over 16’s to be added to the scheme.
Ms Begley added, “This age group are considered to be of working age and indeed many work in front line services. I urge the Economy Minister to consider including 16 and 17-year-olds in this scheme.”
BY THOMAS MAHER