AN INITIATIVE which has seen every household in Herefordshire offered up to £25 to spend locally saved one shop.

As part of its Shop Local campaign, Herefordshire Council initially offered the county's 90,000 a £15 pre-paid card, before topping up cards with an extra £10.

The deadline to claim a card has passed, with Thursday (March 31) the last day to spend any remaining money on the cards. Nearly 60,000 households applied for the card and money has so far been spent at more than 1,500 businesses.

Shops in Hereford have been praising the scheme, with the council aiming to keep spending away from national chains and with local businesses, trying to give a boost to them as the county emerged from Covid restrictions.


For one shop, it kickstarted its revival after it closed down during the pandemic.

The Children's Bookshelf, previously in Blue School Street, closed down as coronavirus ravaged trade, owner Duncan Coope said.

But now it is open again, this time in Maylord Shopping Centre, after being left with just £1 in its business account.


Duncan Coope, of The Childrens Bookshop in Herefords Maylord Shopping Centre, has praised Herefordshire Councils Shop Local cards

Duncan Coope, of The Children's Bookshop in Hereford's Maylord Shopping Centre, has praised Herefordshire Council's Shop Local cards


"We are a small independent shop, and for about four weeks during the start of the Covid crisis we did some online sales, mainly to support parents teaching at home, but really as a way to clear stock," he said.

"But it just wasn't sustainable."

In December 2020, he was forced to shut the doors of the business he had originally set up because he wanted to make reading accessible and affordable for all families.

"A combination of the pandemic and competition from online retailers meant we just couldn't keep going – which was a shame because we have a real focus on mental health and wellbeing for children in the literature we sell, and of course, this was the time they needed it most."


Fast forward 18 months and it's a very different story.

Now in a new shop in the Maylord centre, Mr Coope says thanks to the Herefordshire Council Shop Local scheme, the business is on the up.

"We felt honoured and privileged that so many people wanted to spend their Shop Local card with us and support us.

"It has really helped, it's just been brilliant I think for the council to do what they've done.

"We opened the door in May last year and confidence wasn't there initially, but people seem happier to be out and about and it's great to see the Shop Local card being used so much in independent shops."

Also in Hereford, Steph Sparks decided to open a plant shop in the middle of the pandemic as she was unhappy with a previous job during the lockdowns.

In July 2021, she opened Löv Leaf in Church Street, selling plants and offering workshop space for wellbeing and creative activities.


Steph Sparks, of Löv Leaf, based in Church Street, Hereford, has praised Herefordshire Councils Shop Local cards

Steph Sparks, of Löv Leaf, based in Church Street, Hereford, has praised Herefordshire Council's Shop Local cards


She said: "I think the pandemic has focused attention on well-being, mental health and I know that looking after plants, nurturing them, certainly helped me during the lockdown and that was the seed of the idea for the business.

"It was brave I suppose and also a bit of a risk, but I must admit when the Shop Local email arrived I almost brushed it aside thinking surely Herefordshire Council aren't going to give everyone the initial £15 to spend.

"But when people started coming into the shop and using it, I was just completely overwhelmed. I was so grateful – both to the council for supporting the business but to the people who chose to spend their money in my shop."


As well as seeing an increase in the number of shoppers coming through the door, she said the pre-paid card was often used to support the purchase of more expensive items.

"Times are really tough at the moment so if there is a local independent business you can spend it with then all the better," she added.

The cards have been part of a £6 million council programme, funded through the government’s Covid recovery fund to boost the local economy, including free weekend bus travel, grants for small businesses and a phone app to reward local shopping.