Bristol Pound one month on: 'It's exceeded expectations'
The 350 independent businesses known to have signed up to the Bristol Pound could be just the tip of the iceberg, as many retailers are accepting the local currency without informing organisers.
That is the message coming from the Bristol Pound team one month on from its official launch.
More than 300 retailers had signed up to the scheme - thereby agreeing to accept Bristol Pounds - by the time it went live on September 19. And within a day more than 50 other businesses had jumped on board.
Fast-forward one month and organisers say the local currency is increasingly being spent at independent retailers across the city, in paper form, online and via mobile phones.
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At least £40,000 of Bristol Pounds have been printed, organisers say, and the number of businesses known to be accepting the currency could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Ciaran Mundy, director of the Bristol Pound CIC, told This is Bristol: “It’s been going really well. We’ve had lots of enquiries coming through.
“We don’t know how many businesses have joined, as many of them are just saying yes to accepting it without telling us.
“That’s great because it’s not our currency, it’s everyone’s currency.”
Turning to the number of Bristol Pounds in circulation, Mr Mundy said: “£40,000 of Bristol Pounds have been printed, we know that, but how many times they have been spent is what is really important.
“If those are spent 10 times it’s £400,000 worth of value, and 100 times £4 million. We think we can start to hit those figures this year. It’s way beyond our expectation, it’s great news.”
Traders have told This is Bristol they have seen a fairly small number of Bristol Pounds being used, but that the figure is growing.
Jayne Marshall, co-director of vintage store and art space Shop, in Christmas Steps, said: “We haven’t taken a lot of Bristol Pounds but we’ve certainly had a lot of conversations with people about it, especially with people who are new to the city.
“Everyone we’ve spoken to about it has been really interested and said they were going to set up their own accounts. There’s been a lot of buzz.
“We’re definitely pleased we signed up, especially when you see just how many other businesses have been signing up.
“For us it’s important to feel like we’re part of that movement, and the more people that feel like that the more will join up.”
Maria José, deputy manager at Folk House Café and Bar, said: “Some people ask to have their change in Bristol Pounds, and some people pay with them, but I don’t think enough people. But I think it is growing.
“It needs a little bit more time. It could work. I think it’s a great idea. We are happy to help the project grow”.
Ms José did, however, complain of a lack of information about Bristol Pounds. “I don’t know where to pay or where to go to spend them. There’s a lack of information.
“Maybe that’s why people are asking for change in Bristol Pounds, because they don’t know where to buy them.”
Olly Chandler, manager at Blackboy Hill Cycles, echoed this. “Where can you buy them apart from the Credit Union?” he asked.
But despite this, Mr Chandler said he was happy with the scheme’s progress. “We’ve had people spending it but it’s expected not everyone will be spending them straight away,” he said.
“We’ve had people coming in and asking if we take it. The more it goes on the more people are going to use it. It’s like when new notes come out - they’re like gold dust at first.”
Asked if he was pleased the shop had signed up to the scheme, Mr Chandler said: “Definitely. I can’t see anything negative about it.”
Bristol Pound director Mr Mundy said the focus would now be on encouraging digital payments. “That’s the thing that will help drive more of the local economy towards the independent sector,” he said.
“If we can get people accepting it digitally and pay by text, that will be the test.
“It’s important to stress that can be done on any kind of phone, it doesn’t have to be a smartphone, and it can be on any network.”
Mr Mundy said Bristol should expect to see a flurry of ‘pay by text’ events in the coming weeks - pub crawls, restaurant nights out and Christmas events.
Reflecting on the experience to date, Mr Mundy said: “I’m meeting some fantastic people, that’s one of the huge benefits of it for me.”
To find out more about the Bristol Pound, including details of where to buy and spend them, visit bristolpound.org.