After a much celebrated launch back in 2008, and then a fall-off in interest and use, the Lewes Pound is on the rise again thanks to supporters who’ve signed up to receive regular monthly payouts of the local currency.
Under the terms of the scheme, supporters pay monthly by direct debit and then pick up their Lewes Pounds in one of five local establishments – La Porte’s, Harvey’s, the Town Hall, Frank Richards Butchers, Cheese Please – or at the Lewes Pound stall at the Farmers’ Market.
This has meant that thousands of Lewes Pound are now circulating again. Lewes Pound Coordinator, Zoe Reason, says: “It’s not all being changed back into sterling so we know it’s being re-spent. And that’s when the real benefit comes,” she adds, “when local businesses use Lewes Pounds to pay their suppliers because that’s when economic activity is created.”
Researchers at Bristol University estimate that the UK’s newest and biggest local currency, the Bristol Pound, will create £500,000 of new economic activity this year. The aim of the Lewes Pound organisers is to nudge local residents towards using the local currency and more local shops to spend it on buying their suppliers’ products.
The free range eggs that Laporte’s and Lansdown Health Foods sell are bought from Holmansbridge Farm using Lewes Pounds. The Hearth Bakery save their Lewes Pounds to buy a special coffee tequila from Harveys to make their delicious Tequilamisu dessert. Lewesiana Tea Rooms and The Brewers Arms both source their meat from Richards the Butchers with Lewes Pounds. Pleasant Stores uses them to buys vegetables from Ashurst Farm. If Claire at The Buttercup has Lewes Pounds in her till, it reminds her that she’d rather support Lansdown Health Foods than Tesco. And Cheese Please pays for their monthly advertising in Viva Lewes with Lewes Pounds.
“Traders are finding that there are demonstrable loyalty effects,” says Zoe. “The big supermarkets all give a minimum of 10% discount to purchasers of prepayment vouchers because it’s such valuable business. Regular Payments of Lewes Pounds work in the same valuable way, but it doesn’t cost Lewes traders anything.”
Peter Richards likes his customers picking up their regular envelope of Lewes Pounds from his butcher’s shop on Western Road because “it guarantees they’re going to come in at least once a month and there’s a good chance they’ll spend all, or at least some, of it here with us.”
Some Lewes businesses seem to think that they’ll be penalised if they change their Lewes Pounds back into sterling, but that’s not true – it’s one for one to buy and exchange. That’s how it’s been since day one back in 2008.
Longer term plans include an electronic Lewes Pound with payments by mobile phone, and the possibility of Lewes Pound loans by the East Sussex Credit Union to local businesses and projects that wouldn’t get support from mainstream banks.
This article was originally published in Transition Free Press and is reprinted with their permission