Why I’m rejecting the Telford Loyalty Card

If you’ve been living under a rock, or are a visitor from a different town, let me fill you in on the Telford Loyalty Card.  The old Flex card cost about a tenner and entitled the holder to discounts on council leisure services like the golf, gyms and swimming pools.  It looked like this:

Telford and Wrekin Flexcard

Late in 2012, it was decided to expand this out and invite local businesses to get involved and offer holders of the new look, free TLC (Telford Loyalty Card) discounts at local shops, cafes and restaurants in addition to council services.  The businesses taking part were recently published in the councils Voice paper. Not earth shattering discounts, but something is better than nothing, right?  That’s exactly what I thought until I spoke to two local businesses.

Prior to the relaunch and completely unrelated, I did a bit of work researching a Disloyalty Card.  It was a novel project where a set of independent coffee shops in London with the same supplier got together to try and stop people leaving the area where they operated, and encourage use of indie shops rather than Starbucks/Costa. The Disloyalty Card was stamped when a customer bought a coffee at each of the participating shops, and after 8 stamps had been collected, it could be swapped for a free coffee at the coffee suppliers shops.  Novel eh? Read more about the Worlds First Disloyalty Card.

The Telford Loyalty Card
The Telford Loyalty Card

I won’t name the businesses I spoke to, but they changed my thinking.  First company I spoke to was a bed shop.  I was very pro the Telford Loyalty Card and breezed in extolling the virtues of a centralised loyalty card.  The owner moved his glasses down to the end of his nose, looked over them at me and said ‘How exactly is giving away my margin to anyone and everyone going to help me?’. I told him that being part of it was completely free. ‘Even better – any Tom, Dick or Harry can get in on this too.’ He said, bursting my bubble as I struggled to justify the scheme. It planted a seed of doubt.  This person had been in business for over 20 years, had seen competitors come and go, and retails parks drive shoppers from his door.

The next business is relatively new.  A business person without baggage and keen to experiment and an action rather than words kinda person.  I started talking about the TLC scheme.  He looked across at a sign saying 35% OFF and raised his finger to draw my attention to it. ‘We had someone come in and bought something in our sale.  He insisted on paying full price for it, refusing to take the discount because he said  likes having small, owner managed shops like us on the High Street. I wish more people saw the value in what we offer like he clearly does.’

With that, my mind was made up.  I’ve decided to reject the Telford Loyalty Card.  It’s a nice idea, but 5% saving is neither here nor there. I went into a shop last week who offer 10% off to TLC card holders. I left mine in my wallet.  In all honesty I could have saved 25% by buying on Amazon, but I wanted to talk to someone about what I was buying, and they recommended some other stuff I needed.  Instead of spending £6, I spent £20 and left feeling happy that I’d had a good experience. Isn’t this what the High Street should be about rather than the Council trying to squeeze the meagre profits of hard pressed shops even further?

It’s easy to criticise, so here are some positive suggestions.  I’d like to see some novel ways to help businesses from the council, like a disloyalty card, employing Town Managers to organise events and find reasons for people to visit our market towns or where high concentrations of charity shops appear in towns, remove the rates incentives.  How about encouraging small shops develop an online presence so as not to get left behind, and develop a clicks and mortar approach.

How about encouraging clustering similar businesses together?  Like Hay on Wye is known for its second hand book shops, Broad Street in Birmingham does for bars, or closer to home, like all the car dealers are in one place on Stafford Park?  While the public space civil engineering works have ended in the Market Towns and focus has moved to Southwater, lets try not leave our independent small business languishing.

What will you be doing with your Telford Loyalty Card?




14 thoughts on “Why I’m rejecting the Telford Loyalty Card

  • April 28, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Great article and very interesting to read. I agree these kind of schemes don’t help our local high street shop owners. Better initiatives are needed to promote and encourage consumers back to local high street shops/boutiques.

    I think our reason for opting into the TLC is different. We are a service provider – not tied to the high street or have huge running costs so we can provide some form of discount. For us it’s also about helping out with seeing if we can improve / boost the education levels of our future in the County, supporting the work that teachers and nursery staff do each day.

    Our services are more a longer term offering so any savings we can provide our customers the better for them and us, whilst supporting a local scheme.

    So whilst the card has its advantages for some businesses I think for others it may not work or may need a re-think.

    After all most local business offer great personal services and this should be higher on consumer priorities than a loyalty card.

    • April 28, 2013 at 8:30 am

      Thanks for your comments. I can see exactly why businesses join up, particularly newer ones. It’s almost like a Council endorsement and a some useful exposure on the Council website and in some of its publications.

  • April 29, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Working at a shop taking part in the scheme, I thought I would share my views. We are not promoting the card within store or on our website as we believe those customers were coming to us regardless of the offer and therefore do not want to lose out on our profit margins being a small business we need all the profit available. Though we are listed in the council publications and welcome the card if its brininging in new business.

  • April 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    I like the idea that the card embraces a wide range of services and shopping to the people in the area. We have always used the Flex card to get discounts on various leisure services and now look forward to using it and supporting local businesses.

  • April 30, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Here’s our take on it…

    We signed up for the TLC scheme so that we can reward our local/regular customers. Because we’re in tourist area some people think that Ironbridge is expensive and businesses are there just to make money from visitors. It’s true that some business rely purely on the tourist trade, but there are many others such as ourselves who serve our local area.

    All businesses can run their TLC scheme how they like (points, freebies etc.) but we decided to offer a 10% discount. It may not sound like much, but it’s a small gesture that so far has been much appreciated by our customers.

    Of course, if anyone wants to pay the full price then they’re more than welcome to do so. 🙂

  • May 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    I hope your good enough to post my reply.

    Your comments on the TLC are really interesting and it’s good to hear any views on the new scheme.

    From our perspective we are always looking for new ways to support local businesses and the TLC is a way of doing just that. Following the initial launch in Your Voice, which provided free marketing for 80 local businesses direct to an audience of more than 70,000 households, nearly 40 more businesses have signed up to the scheme.

    Virtually all the businesses who have signed up are smaller local independent businesses for whom the TLC is a great opportunity to market themselves and reach new customers in ways that they may otherwise have struggled to do.

    The discount each business offers is tailored to suit their own needs, it could be money off if you spend over a certain amount, a freebie with a certain purchase, anything that might attract the interest of more shoppers/clients.

    As the scheme progresses we will be encouraging businesses to change their offers as regularly as they want in order to meet their own needs and those of their customers. For example seasonal and last minute offers to help boost sales and footfall.

    Every business that signs up will get a dedicated point of contact to work with at the Council, as well as point of sale material and most importantly, continued marketing support. We will print updated information in Your Voice, direct emails to the TLC customer list and in time both online and hard copy directories of businesses signed up to the scheme, not to mention regular updates on social media (www.facebook.com/telfordloyaltycard and http://www.twitter.com/telfordloyalty).

    The Telford Loyalty Card is here to stay and the marketing and networking opportunities it brings to local businesses are countless.

    Our greatest thanks go out to all the local businesses which have recognised the benefits of the scheme and given it their support, and in turn letting us support them.

    We hope to encourage more and more Telford and Wrekin businesses to come on board so we can work together to build on the TLC offer and make it an increasingly worthwhile initiative to be part of from a business perspective, not to mention the money savings that we can make for our residents.



    Cllr. Shaun Davies

    Cabinet Member Lead for Telford Loyality Card

  • May 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Happy to post any and all comments without fear or favour, as long as they are legal!

  • May 7, 2013 at 5:30 am

    In favour of the TLC, can I bring up the following point?
    I think the TLC is a great idea… As someone that has lived in Telford for 25 of the 31 years I’ve been alive… The whole scheme introduced me to some businesses I didn’t even know existed! (Maybe I need to get out more) which definitely must be a good thing!
    To those who are worried about profit margins… Surely if you sell more, your profit is higher. Dare I say it, but these supermarkets win because of numbers through the door, And returning business!
    ANY scheme that helps encourage folk to use these smaller businesses can only be a good thing surely? If anything the TLC needs to be expanded to try and encourage people further a field to shop at our great towns’ small businesses.
    With regards to discount or reward, it is in your control and needs to be specific to your business… But crucially, get them customers in show them the best possible service you can offer, and I bet they will return.
    What we do need in Telford is good honest garage services (for cars, motorbikes, vans)… Reasonable prices, outstanding customers care, and a good job done… Any takers?
    Too many untrustworthy “dodgy” ones out there try to scrape that extra penny out of you for work that wasn’t required.
    On a final note though, if councils really want to help businesses, maybe they should try help out more with the rents on some of these commercial lettings as this contributes to a lot of small businesses crumbling.

    • May 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks for sharing that Appsuite video. It makes the TLC look a bit clunky! I love how the guy talks about low cost, high value and not focusing on giving big discounts away like groupon.

    • May 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      In fact, last week I tweeted about customers using the TLC to collect points on transactions to exchange for free swims, golf, gym classes,
      Ice skating, theatre tickets etc, which are cheap for the council to give away.

  • July 8, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    I am a fan of all types of considered marketing and I see potential in the TLC.
    I also know that many businesses in Telford are wasting huge amounts of money on non effective marketing without measurable results.
    I will be upfront – I am a fan of the TLC but what I am NOT a fan of is LAZY MARKETING.
    Those businesses who enter into special offers and think that 10% off is as much brain power as they need to give to their offer really need to give themselves a kick up the backside.
    So rather than a florist giving 10% off anything, why not a free box of chocolates with bouquets over £30 for example. If his average bouquet price is £20 then the enticement to move up to £30 and get something free might improve his profit and leaves the customer feeling good. It also gives him a point of difference. Tesco wont be doing it (yet) You will appreciate that I don’t know the cost or margin on flowers so before I get slammed, this is an example to show how it might work. Don’t come back at me bleating about the price of flowers – you do the sums.
    Offers should be there to either attract new customers or trade people up. THEY SHOULD NOT BE RANDOM GIVE AWAYS!! That is just lazy marketing so whats the point?
    I worked with a Chinese takeaway on their offers last year. They introduced free won tons with orders over £20. This guy had done his maths. He knew that his average takeaway order was £17.36 and by offering something free that cost him 70p his average takeaway spend rose to £21.50. Thats extra profit on average for every takeaway. This is a smart offer but you can see that it was thought through.
    Do you know your numbers? if you don’t – start understanding them now.
    Offers can be there to both reward existing customers (business owners love loyalty) and increase turnover/profitability. They can do this if thought through properly.
    There is nothing wrong with having a ‘new customer’ offer to attract new business.
    Don’t worry about upsetting your existing customers – they used you for the first time once didn’t they?
    Think about running a reward scheme for existing customers.

    Try something new – you are not printing 20,000 leaflets. This is on the web and can be changed if it turns out to be too good or no good.

    So my advise for what it is worth – next time you get a call from the TLC offering you a marketing tool which is both free and backed up by social media exposure, grab it with both hands and use it effectively.

    Don’t forget – Be original! it gets you noticed.

    Anyone who wants a copy of our book – “it’s all changed – 66 practical down-to-earth steps to growing your business in 2013/14” just let me know. The cost is £9.95 and all profits will go to Midland Air Ambulance. It’s a business book for people who don’t read business books. That might be you.

  • May 1, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Surely the whole point of the Loyalty Card for the supplier is that you are putting your offer in front of some 70,000 cardholders, some of whom, if they are interested in your product, will purchase from your Company with any extra trade hopefully covering the cost of any small discount you may be offering.

    We at the Tern Valley Vintage Machinery Trust are taking advantage of the card to promote our Annual Vintage Show, with the discount offered being covered by a hopefully increased attendance at Chetwynd Deer Park on the 16th/17th August, should the experiment fail then we will withdraw the offer for 2015, but if you don’t try you will never know and free advertising to 70,000 people can’t be all bad.

    As for the ‘woe is me’ brigade, higher up this list complaining about other suppliers offering lower prices for the consumer, I would say to them ‘If you can’t financially compete in your chosen field then it is time to change your vocation’, why should you expect the hard pressed customer to pay extra just to keep you in business !!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *