After months of planning, checking and rounding up some of the Small City’s favourite indie shops, Perth based miconex have launched their much anticipated Perth Card. For those who haven’t heard about it, The Perth Card is exactly the same as any other gift-voucher type card with the added bonus of being accepted in over 50 local, indie businesses.
Spotting some of my favourite shops on the list, it seemed the best way to write about this was to get out there and try it. I still had some Christmas shopping to do and as a big indie fan, I had already earmarked several items for family and friends in amongst the list of retailers who’ve chosen to be involved.
I hit the town on Friday afternoon and headed for Pharos Parcel in George Street to buy my prepaid card; other card retailers include Fun Junction, Scottish Seasons and Exel Wines. You can also buy it online at ThePerthCard.co.uk.
The idea is you can load a card with any amount you wish and the person you gift it to will be able to pick and choose where and how much they spend on their card. The total is deducted at each till point and runs down in exactly the same way as a 'One Store Only' traditional voucher.
The concept is so simple you might well wonder why we’ve never had it before; and indeed, why Perth is leading the way on this city-wide indie initiative in Scotland. The answer is all down to technology and processes. Co-ordinating a system that links businesses that have nothing to do with one another is no mean feat; miconex have been working with Scandinavian company, Presend, who are successfully running up to 30 similar schemes in their home country.
So, armed with my pre-loaded card I headed straight across the road to Provender Brown to start shopping. As you might imagine, my card was the first one many of the shops had received. Although a number have been sold online and via the retail outlets the vast majority have been purchased as Christmas Gifts. There was much excitement as I handed it over and we all waited patiently to see what might happen!
It runs through the shop’s credit card machine and the only difference to me as a consumer is that I was asked to sign the credit card slip as per the days pre-chip and pin.
I decided we needed a coffee kick to get us in the mood for shopping so as well as my gorgeous Christmas wrapped Panattone (£10.50), I added on a couple of takeaway coffees (£2 each) and charged it all to my Perth Card. Provender Brown has loads of great foodie gifts and instantly I could see why a food-lover would be thrilled with this card. Choosing from their vast range of cheeses, chocolates and charcuterie would while away a few happy hours for me!
List of shops in hand, it was round to Precious Sparkle on Charlotte Street with a picture of exactly what I wanted to buy for my friend’s 10 month old twins. Dawn has the loveliest selection of toys with not a hint of plastic tat in sight. Traditional wood in bright colours and super soft teddys and dollies fill her downstairs shop.
There was also plenty of beautiful silver jewellery calling out my name but I stayed strong and left with a gangly monkey (£20), a sweet wee mouse (£15) and a pull along wooden bus with removable animals (£16).
Back onto George Street and into Byers & Co where Linda’s blackboard full of commissions looked as though it may start running onto the wall! I was lucky enought to receive a green amythest ring from here last Christmas so I know everyone on that list will be super happy on the 25th!
Her beautiful handcrafted designs are top of my list of favourites at the moment and as well as picking up a necklace for a friend’s birthday (£75) I also found myself ordering a long silver oxidised chain for collection on Christmas Eve.
I couldn’t believe she could fit me in before Christmas but it turns out she’s been burning the midnight oil and is now a week ahead of herself. I can't promise by the time you read this the same will be true but it's always worth an ask if you're a last minute Jonny.... or last minute Annie for that matter!
Right – Boo Vake in Watergate next! Don't let that scaffolding put you off; Arlene is open for business and packed full of unusual, arty gifts and homewares. I bought a sketch book and some stickers for my Art Student son’s stocking here last year and he loved both. I was hoping I’d find another book and maybe a scarf or a cushion for a friend.
I’m a huge fan of their quirky lampshades (three in my sitting room alone!) and always find something to catch my eye in this fab week shop.
Thankfully I resisted the amazing silk scarves (although I did hint heavily to RG about how much I Ioved the Vegas pattern…) and left with my sketch book and a cool pair of bronze coloured earrings.
I’m on a roll now! One of the reasons I love shopping with an indie business is the friendly, personal service you get. I never feel pressured to buy, I can ask for ideas around my budget, and because these shops are usually manned by the owner or a long-term staff member, I know I'll get honest, knowledgeable advice. Once you become a regular in any of these wee shops, they'll get to know your tastes and things about your life. It’s like shopping with your pals except they know exactly where everything is!
McEwans next. My oldest niece loves nice makeup but as a poor, skint student can’t afford to treat herself. As well as being my niece she also comes to my office once a month, files all my receipts, does my invoices and generally tidies me up. Believe me when I tell you she deserves the entire counter for that alone!
I choose her gifts (I can’t say what as she reads #SmallCity but look how beautifully wrapped it is!) and while chatting to the very helpful Chloe from Estee Lauder I end up with a Pure Colour Envy Lip Stain in Vague Obsession for myself… (£20 – whoops!).
While I'm on St John Street I nip into Scottish Seasons for a cheese making kit (£22). I’ve been looking to buy one of these for ages and plan to try it out while I’m off over the festive season. Twelve batches of crowdie will be whipped up in time for Hogmanay! I had a flick through the Katy Morag books while I was there and made a mental note to check which ones my little London-based girl already has.
I head for Tayberry Gallery on Princes Street to buy another couple of pairs of their fab fingerless mittens (£23 each). I bought some for myself and love them so much I’m treating two of my friends to a pair. They are so lush! I opt for a bright pink and a soft green and while Louise is wrapping them for me I am drawn, once again, to her Bowly Boards; these are wooden serving boards with perfect little bowl shaped grooves for dips, oils and chutneys.
After the last time I was in I spent three days thinking I should have bought one. On a shopping high I decide I’m having a medium sized board in black walnut (£65 which technically went on my debit card!) and two little pate knives, one in plum tree wood and one in pear tree wood (£8 each). I completely love it and can picture it brimming with my homemade crowdie as I type!
One more baby to buy for, and I’m running to catch Fun Junction in the Old Street for one of their fab musical cot toys. They have such a great selection that you won’t find anywhere else and I choose a gorgeous wee owl (£20) who drops in and out of his tree while playing ‘Top Of The World’ by The Carpenters! How much do you love that?!
I also pick up a Chinese Dragon Kite (£15) for a grown-up couple which suddenly seems a far better gift than another bottle of booze!
I’m shopped out and need a cuppa. I wonder how much I have remaining on my card and log on to the website to check my balance. It’s really easy to do, simply type in the barcode number on the back of the card in the ‘Check Balance’ box and they’ll let you know how much you have remaining.
I had done some serious amounts of shopping but there was enough for a pot of peppermint tea at Blend Café before I finished up for the day. (I’d lost RG when I mentioned make-up counter).
I can see why The Perth Card is a perfect gift for anyone living in or visiting Perth. I’ve bought a wooden toy, makeup, a baby cot mobile, a Christmas panettone, a couple of coffees, a sketch book, a cheese making kit, earrings and a necklace, mittens, a cheese kit, cuddly monkey and mouse, a kite, a wooden serving board and a pot of tea.
Had I had enough time and credit I could also have gone for a meal, a tour of a castle or a palace, had a cocktail, bought a couple of steaks or booked in for a haircut.
Anything that encourages a #PerthLoveFest is always good by me! Having gone through the whole process of buying a card, spending in various shops and checking my balance online I can honestly say they’ve cracked this age old dilemma of how to link up lots of our favourite shops to give us a great gift solution.
REDEEM CARDS | Find a full list on The Perth Card website here.