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Startup Story: Local Gift Cards

‘What do you want?’ It was the question I would get constantly from my thoughtful sisters in New York and London around Christmas and birthdays. ‘Anything’, I would reply, but most of the time I would be thinking I’d really love those boots I saw in Fuchsia Footwear or a nice meal in one of the many fine restaurants here in Clonakilty, knowing well that it wasn’t possible for them to get it for me. Instead I would receive another bottle of perfume I wasn’t too fond of! Not their fault I know, but what if there was a way for them to go online and purchase me a gift card or voucher for local providers and get it emailed or sent to me? Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

I could get what I want and they could conveniently get me something that I could use locally. For many people living at home and abroad finding a gift solution can be a problem, many people want to give something that they know will be well received and support the local community but it also needs to be convenient and not cost the earth in postage! And so this is how Local Gift Cards was born!

Simply put the aim of the website is to allow customers to shop local while online! It allows retailers and service providers from towns all over Ireland to offer their gift cards online so wherever their customers may be, they can access them. When starting to research the idea Maria was surprised to see that nothing like this existed online for the smaller retailer. Already there have been orders from the US, Australia and Switzerland as well as purchases locally and nationwide.

Support to independent retailers

Local Gift Cards is proud to support independent retailers, many of these businesses are the hub of our communities providing employment, quality service and products. Not only that many have been in the same family for generations. These are the same places where memories are made, traditions created and they make where we live a better place. Maria can relate to the smaller retailer, she grew up over her family’s Off Licence and Grocery shop in Dublin. ‘My sister runs the business which has been in the family now for over 50 years! My siblings and I all worked in it from an early age and it gave us a very good grounding in business in general and taught us invaluable lessons about customer service.’

This love for the service industry continued to grow while she studied Hotel Management at DIT Cathal Brugha Street. A real people person, Maria spent many years in the Hotel industry in senior management positions in Dublin and Cork. ‘I especially loved dealing with customers, not just the happy endings but also complaints. Not that there were many! But for me it was solving problems for guests and seeing them go away happy and return because of the service they had received that made my job fun and rewarding.’ Hotels have really embraced the internet and this is an area Maria worked in for a long time in Reservations/Revenue Management and also in online marketing. ‘I feel I am now utilising all aspects of my experience on a daily basis with Local Gift Cards.’

Increase towards online spending

With the trend ever increasing towards online spending it is estimated that only 23% of small Irish businesses are engaged in any meaningful way in eCommerce sales. For businesses employing less than ten people this percentage could be even lower. It is now believed that of online purchases made in Ireland that 70% of these are done in overseas markets. There is now an urgency to ensure that businesses recognise that this is happening and that they are encouraged and supported to correctly respond to this digital reality. Local Gift Cards is a cost effective solution to this problem for the smaller retailer and at the same time enables loyal customers the convenience to choose local when shopping online.

Log on

Simply log on to, choose a town, the merchant of your choice, the amount for the gift card and check out. The gift card can then either be emailed or posted to the recipient, it’s as easy as that! This is all part of the service that Local Gift Cards provides. Retailers have the option of setting the service up through their Facebook Business Page also, which makes it easier for them to promote the service or through their existing website.

With new retailers coming on board all the time the choice to support local has never been easier! For further information please contact Maria Carolan on 0877657084 or or visit Local Gift Cards on

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