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Loyalty cards to help save traders

PUBLISHED: 11:35 06 August 2009 | UPDATED: 17:00 25 August 2010

THE brainchild of Big Issue s founder could help turn around the demise of village life. The Wedge Card, dubbed a social passport by John Bird, is being adopted by thousands of residents as part of a scheme promoted all last week across Bexley borough

THE brainchild of Big Issue's founder could help turn around the demise of village life.

The Wedge Card, dubbed a 'social passport' by John Bird, is being adopted by thousands of residents as part of a scheme promoted all last week across Bexley borough with housing association, Orbit.

Simple in concept with the cheeky slogan 'Every little shop helps', holders of the card are entitled to special offers being run by shops in their neighbourhood.

Chains or franchises with more than nine outlets are excluded from the scheme.

Still in its infancy, it is claimed the card is already beginning to outstrip major retailers' loyalty cards for usage.

It was dreamt up two and a half years ago by Mr Bird while in a Los Angeles bookstore and has been championed by his daughter, Diana.

The idea came from a loyalty card sent by KCIW, a local LA radio station. When he produced the card, he says bookstore staff made him feel welcome and he was able to use it to get deals in 20 other stores.

Mr Bird said: "If you don't have local shops, communities start to break down.

You don't see people striking up conversations in supermarkets.

"When High Streets start getting boarded up, people have nowhere to go to interact with others and a sense of depression creeps in.

"Local shops retain about 80 per cent of their revenue within the community, with supermarkets it's more like 18 per cent."

"I started the Big Issue to bring homeless people into the community through selling the magazine.

"But to have a healthy community you need your coffee shops, newsagents, butchers.

"There's a big misconception that supermarkets cost less. There are some really good deals to be had in local shops, particularly in fruit and vegetables."

He refers to a study by American food giant Wallmart that shows 20 per cent of all perishable goods bought by their customers is thrown away, and adds: "We're all guilty of buying more than we need.

"The Wedge card is the community fighting back. It works in places where you wouldn't expect it to.

"But there has to be a mutual belief between residents and shop owners, you have to use it other wise there is just no point."

The scheme is being expanded worldwide, and is already adopted in Sydney, Australia and Oslo, Norway.

Orbit housing association has given 1,500 Wedge Cards at £15 each to its tenants in Bexley.

Orbit tenants who haven't received a card can phone 0800 6781 221.

To find out more about the scheme, search for www.wedgecard.co.uk.

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