Over the last couple of years, I’ve talked to a lot of people about the concept of a local currency and how it can benefit Cardiff as a whole, by making sure that more of the money we spend in Cardiff, stays in Cardiff. This brings positives to all of us; more money being spent in Cardiff means more businesses will spring up to help us spend it; more shops and businesses means more local jobs AND a greater choice for consumers on our high street; more local jobs is obviously good news for all of us living here; and more choice will encourage more people to spend locally – and so the circle continues. An active, circulating, local currency can actually increase the local money supply – even when the general money supply is being choked off.
The next question I ask is always ‘Would you use a local currency, if it were available’?
To which I more often than not get the a reply along the following lines… ‘Yes – if it meant I had a discount from local shops – otherwise it’s a bit of a hassle, and there’s nothing really in it for me, is there?’
Before we talk about the ‘what’s in it for me’ question, let’s just unpick the discount idea a bit. On the face of it, it’s a no-brainer. It gives customers an incentive to use the Cardiff Pound, (the ‘what’s in it for me’ question) and the theory goes that the retailer will benefit from increased sales (which should cover off the ‘what’s in it for them’ question). But in practice, only the former is true.
A retailer will only see some benefit from increased sales if the number of brand new customers using the Cardiff Pound consistently exceeds the number of existing customers using it. To put it another way, offering a discount to customers paying in Cardiff Pounds means that a retailer will be bringing in less money for the same amount of sales. Less money coming in means something, somewhere, has to give. That might mean compromising on the quality of the goods on offer; it might mean raising prices across the board (both with the attached risk of losing customers); it might mean someone’s shifts are cut. All of these things are the complete opposite of what a local currency sets out to achieve!
So, if using a local currency is not going to offer you a discount at local shops, and all the benefits outlined in the first paragraph seem a bit far off, what exactly is in it for you?
You’ll be part of it! You will be part of creating a strong, vibrant local economy for our city, where the independent retail and business sector offers genuine choice to the consumer.
Choice. You’ll be able to choose where your hard earned money goes when it leaves your hands – for every 10 Cardiff Pounds you spend, that’s £10 going straight back into your local economy which sticks around to be spent again and again (rather than squirrelled away offshore in tax havens).
Discovery. You’ll get the opportunity to discover and enjoy local businesses that might have slipped under your radar – and once you’ve discovered them, you’ll know that the Cardiff Pounds you choose to spend with them will stay in Cardiff, circulating around the city, for ever!
Values – as opposed to value. When you spend Cardiff Pounds, you’ re not just spending money, You’re spending money with values. The Cardiff Pound will be a Community Interest Company, which means it exists for the benefit of everyone in our community, rather than to make profit for shareholders. Once running costs are covered, spare money will be reinvested into schemes which bring direct benefit to our community – and you, as a member, will get a say in what those schemes are!
Shaping the future of our money in our city. Anyone opening a Cardiff Pound account with our partners the Cardiff and Vale Credit Union, automatically becomes a Member of the Cardiff Pound. That means you get a say in what we do with any money we have left over after meeting the running costs of the scheme.
Happiness. They say that money can’t buy happiness. But who wouldn’t get a little happy feeling from knowing that they are spending money with values, with a purpose, and above all, money which helps to keep our city a vibrant and exciting place to live!
That’s got to be better than a discount scheme, surely!?