Celebrating The Bristol Pound’s First Birthday

By Chanel Smith, EMEA Editor (@PYMNTS_EMEA)

The Bristol Pound is about to celebrate its first birthday as the UK’s first city wide local currency.

The Bristol Pound was launched in September 2012, and is an alternative currency designed to give a boost to the local economy and businesses owners. Current figures reported by The Guardian indicate that over £260,000 worth of sterling pounds has been traded in for Bristol pounds, nearly 1,200 consumers have registered accounts and over 600 businesses in Bristol accept the currency. Since the local currency’s launch, there has been impressive growth in the number of consumers and merchants who have adopted the Bristol pound scheme.

“I think it’s a great scheme,” Alex Poulter, an employee at East Bristol Bakery told The Guardian. “It’s a good way of making sure people do business and shop locally. It’s become a part of many people’s daily routine.”

The citywide currency is the first program in the UK to offer electronic account transactions that are backed and monitored by a formal financial institution. The Bristol Pound also represents the first local currency that can be used to pay various local taxes. Shoppers in Bristol can use the currency at any participating retailer. The Guardian also reported that a major transportation company in the area has imminent plans to adopt the Bristol Sterling as a payment option for tickets.

Bristol Pounds can be purchased with paper bank notes, mobile phone payments, or can be paid with over Internet. The Bristol Credit Union manages the electronic accounts and these payments help locals make B2B payments, such as merchants who need to pay their suppliers.

Despite the copious number of businesses and local consumers who have accepted the local currency, there are still those who remain hesitant.

To help alleviate security concerns amongst users, BCU deposits one sterling pound in a trust account for every Bristol pound that is printed. This process was designed to protect consumers. Moreover, the Financial Conduct Authority regulates the virtual transactions. Bristol has not yet had any trouble with currency replications, and The Guardian reports that the currency even has seven features to help defend against forgery. Some even argue that the Bristol pound is harder to recreate than the original sterling.

The Bristol Pound was primarily launched to help sustain the growth of local business sales and offer shoppers with a secure alternative payments option. The initiative is undoubtedly boosting the Bristol economy, but shoppers told The Guardian that another added benefit is the feeling of community effort.

We have regulars who always use it. That makes us feel more part of a special community,” said Poulter. “It’s a nice feeling.”

To read the full story at The Guardian click here.

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