Retailers who signed up to the new gift card service launched by payment collection network PayPoint last November have seen a good response from customers, plus they’ve boosted their own profitability, according to the company’s retail director Mike Igoe (pictured right).

He said gift cards were a good complement to the company’s expanding range of electronic services designed to drive customer footfall, increase sales and boost profits. They include the established bill payment and e-top-up terminals; as well as solutions for delivery of its payment services via epos, in-store cash dispensing via ATMs and additional terminal services such as credit and debit card authorisation. Terminals handle gas and electricity meter pre-payments, cash bill payments, mobile phone top-ups, transport tickets, London congestion charges, TV licences and a wide variety of other payment types for all the leading utilities, telecommunications suppliers and many consumer service companies. A recent service addition is the sale of game cards for Bingo Lotto, the new TV game launched on Virgin 1 and Challenge at the end of February.

Phil Underwood, owner of Old Forge Filling Station in Colchester, is one of a number of petrol retailers who stocks gift cards, and has found that providing an extra service to offer customers has become a useful tool in an increasingly competitive market.

"People don’t often expect to buy decent gifts from a forecourt, but having a PayPoint terminal gave us the chance to make the most of the new opportunity to sell gift cards. We stock the full range so people coming in to pay for their fuel can also pick up a gift card for any occasion. The point of sale material is displayed around the counter so it is in the direct eye-line for when we have customers waiting to be served during busy periods. We had refreshed the point of sale in the build up to Mother’s Day, which is often a time when people will make a quick stop to buy flowers - this time they had the opportunity to pick up something a little more interesting".

Igoe said displaying the product and associated point of sale materials helps promote gift cards, and also creates a talking point for customers. "Engaging with customers about the benefits of buying gift cards locally helps spread word of mouth, and some community stores have seen an increase in spenders visiting the shop on special occasions, purchasing gift cards when buying greeting cards."

Nearly 19,000 outlets use dedicated PayPoint terminals, including around 1,250 forecourts.

"Forecourt operators should offer these types of services," suggested Igoe. "First they had lottery, then ATMs. Payment services are a natural extension. It’s a very straightforward business, with an intuitive system on the terminal that takes customers through the bill-payment process quickly and easily whether they have a bill, card or key. The service is particularly attractive to sites in neighbourhood areas."

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