I ran across an interesting story recently out of a town in England called Lewes (pronounced like Lewis). The town was frustrated with the larger chain stores coming in and running the smaller local stores out of business. To solve the problem of the dwindling number of small shop, the town enacted their own currency.
This currency, the Lewes pound, was to be used only in local shops that had decided to participate in the program. They started with around 70 shops and now they have over 140 participating vendors. The beautiful currency is issued by the town of Lewes which locals can then purchase from any of the participating vendors. To get the currency off to a good start they offered some sort of a discount, an American equivalent would be like purchase 5 – $20 for face value and get one free. The people then can pay for their goods using the notes. The vendors sometimes offer discounts if you are paying with the local currency as well, adding to the incentive. When the vendors receive the notes into their tills, they can then give them out as change, pay employees with them, exchange them for cash or just spend them within the community themselves.
To add to the excitement of the new currency, the local town announces three different currency serial numbers each week. The first person to bring the numbered currency to the local office that week receives another prize turning the whole system into a mini-local lottery.
The bills have an expiration date on them so that people cannot hoard them and bring them all in at a later date, the idea is to keep them circulating. The current version of the Lewes pound is only good until the year 2014. The town of Lewes has received national attention for their bold experiment. They have had a tremendous amount of success and plan to continue their program indefinitely. They have had so much interest in how they pulled this all off that they even published a free how- to-guide to help others follow in their footsteps at https://thelewespound.org/assets/files/Lewes_Pound_How_To_Guide.pdf.
Finally a way to concretely help our local economy and help us keep the unique shops and restaurants that make our area worth the trip for others to come and visit. So now my question is, just which county office to I bring this idea to? Anyone willing to give this a try? Let’s start a dialogue, I created a Facebook group called “Gloucester/Mathews Local Currency Discussion group. Join the group, post a comment, I’d love to hear what you think. Maybe we will even hear from our local officials who are the people who can really help us get this ball rolling.