High Streets Initiative · 22 September 2017

South London Club founder reveals his plans for an independent revolution

South London Club card holders receive discounts at over 650 participating shops
South London Club card holders receive discounts at hundreds of independent’shops, cafes and services
Launched in September 2016, in just one year South London Club has partnered with over 650 independent businesses to give residents a reason to shop, eat and spend locally. We caught up with founder Thomas Page to hear more about what the initiative hopes to achieve, and the personal inspiration behind it.

whilst studying economics at university it became clear to me how important small business owners are to the local economy, Page told Business Advice.

they employ local people. They source and stock locally produced products, which helps those local businesses. And crucially they pay their fair share of tax, unlike many corporations.

Recalling the inspiration behind the project, Page explained that upon returning to his home town of Lewisham after graduating, high levels of youth unemployment and a disappearance of local shops had altered the area’s character.

what once gave the area its own unique identity and personality, turned in to a stale, monotonous, clone of most high streets youll find across the UK today, he added.

I thought there had to be a way to help support our local businesses, so I came up with a solution a local discount card. A membership card that would incentivise members by offering them a unique discount ranging from ten to 50 per cent off in these businesses.

it would encourage them to visit them if they hadnt been already and to visit them more regularly. The local businesses receive new and more regular trade, whilst local residents save money. it’s win-win.

Fleshing out the concept, Page outlined the range of discounts available, from ten per cent off a total at an independent caf, to 50 per cent off a food bill at a local restaurant. Three tiers of membership are on offer, starting from 79p per month. To date, more than 5, 000 card carrying members have access to over 650 local discounts across South London’s 12 boroughs.

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According to Page, the scheme has generated statistics in its first year to demonstrate a boost in new and more frequent trade for participating businesses. He meets potential partners in person, and uses the data to prove how the membership card can benefit them.

As South London Club memberships grow, Page championed the local supply chain benefits in supporting small businesses in the area. He noted that 70 per cent of Lewisham residents who work do so outside of the borough, thus spending a considerable amount of time and money north of the river.

if there was more of a business base in this area, there would be more people buying lunch in the area supporting local cafes, restaurants and with the uptick in demand it would result in more local jobs too, he said

with more local jobs, those people also become new local consumers and so there really is this great knock on effect to the local economy.

The efforts of South London Club to foster greater community self-sufficiency echoes the local currency initiatives investigated by Business Advice. However, as we discovered with the Brixton Pound, the recent revaluation of business rates painted a bleak picture for South London’s entrepreneurs, who have been forced to absorb the added burdens of the Crossrail levy and London’s property market.

Page agreed the incoming tax hike is likely to test the resolve of many independents. I think the biggest challenge facing local retailers and business owners is most definitely the recent increase in business rates.

To help finance the ongoing Crossrail project, former London mayor Boris Johnson placed a four per cent levy on the 47, 000 London firms with a rateable value above 55, 000. it’s weight on inner-London business owners is set to become heavier under the new system, with a further 9, 800 firms qualifying for the Crossrail levy.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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