A shop local ethos is the latest link between Harrogate and its twinned Canadian city as Barrie introduces its own gift card scheme to boost the economy and keep money local.

They might be 5,000km apart, but the twinned areas of Harrogate and Barrie are closer than ever thanks to the arrival of a new gift card to encourage shopping local.

Barrie, one of Canada’s fastest growing cities, introduced its new Downtown Barrie Gift Card in early 2024, following in the footsteps of its twinned town, Harrogate.

Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID) introduced the Harrogate Gift Card in 2019 with over £140,000 of cards sold to date and more than 100 businesses now accepting the cards as payment.

The local gift cards for Barrie and Harrogate are both powered by technology from fintech Miconex, which manages over 200 programmes active globally. Cards can be spent with all types of local businesses, diverting online spend back into high streets and downtown areas.

Harrogate and Barrie were twinned in 2013. Barrie was named after Sir Robert Barrie, a celebrated Royal Naval Officer and Naval Commissioner in Canada, whose final resting place is Ripley Castle, near Harrogate. Both places have similar populations of around 160,000 people.

Matthew Chapman, Harrogate BID Manager, said: “We think it is a real positive for Barrie to be launching its own gift card.

“It’s a great initiative that keeps spend locked into the local economy as it has to be physically used in shops rather than online or out of the area. The gift card is also a great present for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas and many more celebrations.

“As someone that has been lucky enough to travel to Barrie and champion the twinning of our two places, it’s fantastic to see this partnership growing even further.

“In Harrogate, we have seen £140,000 locked into the local economy through the Harrogate Gift Card and we cannot wait to explore what additional international collaborations we can cultivate through this programme.”

Downtown Barrie BIA is behind the launch of the new Downtown Barrie Gift Card, where Craig Stevens is the Executive Director. He said: “Barrie and Harrogate have a shared heritage celebrated through the twinning of our two places. Another vital thing we share is a dedication to supporting our local businesses by encouraging people to shop local and support their friends and neighbours.

“Harrogate has had some great success with their gift card. By introducing our new Downtown Barrie Gift Card we aim to keep dollars locked into Barrie by offering a local alternative for both gifts and corporate rewards.”

Miconex operates its Downtown Gift Card concept across North America in association with international payments technology solutions provider EML Payments and its Town & City Gift Card concept in the UK and Ireland.

Colin Munro, Managing Director of Miconex, said: “Even though they are over 5,000km apart, the shop local sentiment is as strong in Barrie as it is in Harrogate. In 2023, over 96% of people in Canada and the UK said they are keen to support local business as they understand the positive impact it has.

“Our technology is used by places around the world to convert shop local sentiment into local spend, so we can keep our high streets and downtowns vibrant places to live and work.”