The high street bounces back with BARTER


March 28, 2014

Media, Partnership


One in five shops in the North West have closed as people desert the high street – but in
Lancaster, a new project aims to reverse this alarming trend. Lancaster University’s
BARTER project funded by EPSRC, aims to get people to spend in local shops instead of
online, so that money remains circulating in the local economy. If over 80% of spending is
kept local, the community’s wealth is boosted five times because that money is reinvested

Dr. Mark Lochrie of the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University
explains, “The lesson for local economies is that if more of the money spent locally is spent
between members of the local community rather than large multi-national corporations, the
greater the benefit to the local economy. By spending your money with a local trader who in
turn spends it with other local traders you are not simply improving things for an individual
trader, you are directly benefiting the local community.”

He is one of a team of researchers who have developed a mobile and web platform which
allows local businesses and customers to sign up and start to record their purchases at the
point of sale. This enables people to visualise where and how money is spent locally, how
their spending impacts the community, make conscious decisions where to spend their money
and become part of the bigger picture in an initiative to support local traders.

How does it work?

A photograph taken at The Yard Coffee, demonstrating the simplistic use of the BARTER card, with its ‘pick up and use’ approach.

The customer has a BARTER card which the retailers swipes on their mobile terminal,
logging the transaction as a local purchase. This data is collected anonymously so there is no
record of who bought what, but it does enable the project to build up a picture of the flow of
money in the local economy. A detailed video demonstration can be found at the following

The nature of the system allows traders to record transactions away from a centralised point of sale. Photograph taken at The Borough Lancaster

Kayleigh from The Borough Lancaster stated, “We are delighted to be involved with the
Barter project as we are committed to serving local produce and wherever possible we
purchase from local suppliers.”

In addition, some traders may wish to use BARTER as a loyalty system, by offering
promotions with use of the BARTER card. Traders who are already signed up and accepting
the card include The Borough, The Yard Coffee, Simply Flowers by Nicola,
BayWebDesigns, Lancaster Bed Company. and The Small Green Consultancy

Sharon from BayWebDesigns said: “I’ve realised it makes me more aware of how I choose to
spend my money and actually encourages me to buy local more often. I feel it will be a good
project to show consumers and businesses in the area how our local economy works and, I
hope, eventually show ways we can improve it.”

photo 1
The BARTER system is also up and running at Simply Flowers by Nicola, a florist under new ownership, where she is using BARTER to reward loyalty within her customers.

Dr. Paul Coulton, principal investigator of the project explains what’s in store for the
businesses and customers of BARTER. He states “The second stage of the project will be a
local social network (a market place) where customers can rate the quality of local trading
and businesses, building a stronger reputation within the local community. The aim of the
Barter Project is create a system that will allow users to see the benefits shopping locally

If you are a local business and would like to get involved with BARTER please contact us on or alternatively customers can pick up their cards and use them right
away, registering at their convenience.



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