One year on: Is it really working?

We have high hopes for Brixton’s beloved local currency. With over 170 businesses accepting the B£ and over B£30,000 issued out into circulation, we claim it makes people shop locally, encourages businesses to supply local goods and contributes to preserving Brixtons diversity. That sounds pretty ambitious.

But how well is it really working? To mark the end of the year, we’ve been talking to shoppers and businesses to try to answer this question. And the results have exceeded even our expectations.

Brixton Pounds are not just sitting in people’s wallets. People are using them every day all over Brixton, with a total of B£3,500 spent in Brixton businesses on average every week.

Some of you will already be making a quick calculation and working out that this isn’t much in terms of the grand scheme of Brixton’s local economy. But having these B£ in their tills can make all the difference to how businesses buy their supplies. Businesses can’t spend this money in Tesco or Cash and Carry, so they have been looking for ways to source locally. We’re currently running a project to link up B£ businesses with local B£ suppliers and services. This has the effect of ‘plugging the leaks’ in the local economy and keeping money circulating.

For example, Brixton Cornercopia spend their B£ on fresh produce from A&C continental, fresh vegetables from the market  and fresh bread from Wild Caper. Mango Landin’ buy flowers from Florista outside Brixton Tube and cutlery from Morley’s. The list goes on. Some of this trade would have taken place anyway, of course,but we know that much of it wouldn’t. Most businesses are more than happy to spend locally if they can find good products at a good price, but often it isn’t until they have a large number of Brixton Pounds and we help to identify the right produce for their needs that they get around to doing so. As Dario from Bellatoni’s Italian Restaurant in Brixton Village put it, “The Brixton Pound definitely makes me think about where I shop and find suppliers.”

It’s much harder to prove whether the Brixton Pound is increasing how much shoppers spend locally . What we can say is that some Brixton Pound businesses say the scheme has brought them new customers. When we asked Ossie from Ossie’s Fresh Ginger why he accepts the Brixton Pound, he said “it does so much to promote local business. I do find that the more I tell people that I am part of the scheme, the more they are willing to accept the produce because people do feel passionately about the state of the economy in Brixton.” Barney from Brixton Cycles co-operative agreed, saying “the Brixton Pound is fantastic marketing for us.”

Despite this success, we can’t be complacent. Local businesses are threatened by rent increases and more chain stores creeping onto the high street. To create an economy which is resilient we all need to keep spending the B£ and asking for it in change.

Let’s make sure we have even more to celebrate on our 2nd birthday.