Tuesday, Sept 9, 2008
Tired of soaring prices and uncertain financial markets, a small town in southern England is fighting back — with its own local currency.
Tuesday evening, the wealthy English town of Lewes plans to launch the Lewes Pound as a complementary currency to the British pound. About 50 local traders have agreed to accept it, and organizers are selling the notes at a discount to entice people to buy them.
“If you spend a pound in a supermarket,” campaigner Adrienne Campbell told CNN, “it almost immediately goes out of the community, leaks away, and then isn’t remaining in the community serving the local people.”
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Organizers say the Lewes Pound benefits shoppers by strengthening local shops and increasing a sense of pride in the community. For traders, it increases customer loyalty, minimizes the cost of card-based transactions, and attracts attention to the town. The Lewes Pound also benefits the environment by keeping transactions local, thus reducing carbon emissions, organizers say.
Local cheese shop Cheese Please — which plans to accept the new currency — offers an example in the economics. Owner Fiona Kay fills her counter with local cheeses, and a customer would use the Lewes Pound to buy them. Kay would then pay the dairy with Lewes Pounds, and the dairy owner would use the Lewes Pound to buy local supplies.
The Lewes Pound is a basically a voucher worth one British pound that can only be redeemed at locally-owned participating stores. Customers can buy it at several issuing outlets around town and trade it back for sterling at any time.