Northern Ireland has a great idea – give everyone a gift card

Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister has announced that, as part of a £300m support package for business, they will earmark £95m for a high street gift card scheme.

While the details haven’t been hammered out yet, we do know the scheme will deliver prepaid high street gift cards to individuals in Northern Ireland.

We think it’s a sensational idea.

Cash is not always king

Many people will ask why a gift card scheme is better than just giving businesses the money. It might seem like a more ‘common sense’ idea, but a gift card scheme does much more than just move money from public to private bank accounts.

Gift cards not only generate extra cash flow for businesses, they spur other spending moments beyond their main purchase. Someone who pops out to Argos to spend a gift card is likely to pay for public transport, parking, a coffee, perhaps even a meal while they’re out. They might even make some secondary purchases on top of their gift card value.

Distributing vouchers also ensures businesses carry on operating like businesses – they still need to employ staff, which drives money back into the pockets of their workers. It also means the business still needs to source stock, pushing revenue to their suppliers as well.

The goal is to spur more activity in brick-and-mortar retail and hospitality, and we think this scheme has an excellent chance of doing exactly that.

It’s the same for business rewards

We see a similar effect when employees are issued cash as a reward. The extra money is absorbed into an employee’s monthly pay, and often ends up paying down credit cards, or paying a bill. There’s no novelty, or sense of the cash being a real “treat”.

As a result, just moving cash around doesn’t produce any tangible emotional benefits for staff, and it still doesn’t produce an immediate benefit for the wider economy.

On the other hand, closed-loop rewards like gift cards prompt someone to spend their reward on something special by limiting where it can be used (hence the term closed-loop).

It’s one of the biggest reasons so many companies come to us instead of just issuing a bonus to staff. Even modest amounts of cash can be turned into special moments by making sure recipients spend them on a gift instead of a gas bill.

The scheme is very exciting, and we’ll be keeping an eye out to see how well it helps the high street. In the meantime, however, there’s something the whole UK can do to produce a similar effect without having to earmark money for vouchers.

Back the #GiftCard500 campaign

Alongside the Gift Card and Voucher Association (GCVA), Appreciate Business Services are supporting the government lifting the limit on the Trivial Benefits Allowance (TBA) from £50 to £500.

The TBA allows businesses to reward their staff with up to £50 a year in gift cards tax-free. An equivalent reward in cash would cost a business up to £40 per employee on top of the £50 gift. By making those rewards tax-free, employers are incentivised to offer non-cash rewards to their staff at Christmas.

By switching from cash to a closed-loop product like a gift card, the money works harder for everyone. Instead of disappearing into savings accounts or settling gas bills, it goes back into our economy through retailers and restaurants.

Given the UK gift card industry is worth more than £6bn a year, there would be huge benefits to business, customers and brick-and-mortar retail alike by raising the threshold. If you’d like to share the campaign, or get behind it yourself, you can find the GVCA’s petition here.

Pick the perfect office Secret Santa gifts with our cheat sheet

We’ve all been there. You draw a name in the Secret Santa, and…blank. You’re looking at a familiar name, but you can’t think of a gift. You can’t even go and ask their work-friends, because everyone will know who you’ve drawn.

Don’t sweat though, we have you covered. Use our Secret Santa cheat sheet for a bit of inspiration.

By the way, if this seems like a lot of gift ideas to take in at once, get in touch with our team! With just one of our Love2shop Gift Cards, or Digital Reward Codes, your staff can pick the perfect gift for themselves.

The kitchen wizard

The person in your office who gets a kick out of delighting the team with treats. Hasn’t turned their oven off since March, and thinks Bake-Off is for “casuals”.

DON’T: Try to take on the champ at their own game by baking something. You’re wading into deep waters, there.

DO: Give them their own cheat sheet apron! The skirt of the apron has common unit conversions for quick reference, so there’s no more trying to Google “2/3 Cup in ML” with doughy fingers.

The health nut

Rarely seen without a protein shake, never seen with refined sugars.

DON’T: Go for supplements, powders, or gym equipment – they probably already have it all. And trust us, you’ll never be able to pick the right blend of powders, pills and oils they like.

DO: Buy shakers and shake balls. If your gym-aficionado is anything like ours, it doesn’t matter how many they’ve already got, they’ve got an eye on one more.

The gourmand

You’re having coffee, they’re using home-ground Arabica beans in an AeroPress. You made steak and chips, they reverse-seared a 28-day dry-aged ribeye joint with fondant potatoes.

DON’T: Think you have to impress or one-up them. Their interests might be niche, but it doesn’t mean they’re a snob.

DO: Buy them a cookbook from the chef of that one restaurant you heard talking about back in February.

The social butterfly

They can’t turn down a chance for a chat, and their social side brings some positivity to the office every day.

DON’T: Go for chocolates. They don’t need the energy, they get their buzz off other people.

DO: Buy them a conversation-starter mug for their drinks. They need a chance for a talk, so give them exactly what they want.

The modest mouse

Comes in on time, works with their earbuds in all day, clocks out on time. You never hear them say much, but they never miss a deadline either.

DON’T Assume that because they’re quiet at work they’re a champion introvert outside the office.

DO: Check out what kind of phone they use and buy them a charger for that brand. It doesn’t matter how many chargers you have, the amount you need is always one more than what you’ve got.

The remote worker

Rarely seen, occasionally heard, but always valued. Could be manning an outpost away from HQ or just working at home full-time.

DON’T: Scour their Facebook for clues on what they’re into. You might accidentally like a photo from 2012.

DO: Hit them up with some streaming services. Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, any of the big hitters would be great.

The boss

It doesn’t matter how good they are as a boss, they’re the closest thing to the short straw in a Secret Santa.

DON’T: Try to hit a home run by breaking the price limit. It’s not cool and your boss won’t really be able to enjoy the gift if it’s expensive.

DO: Lean into the discomfort a bit. Get them something like a desk name-plate that says “THE BIG CHEESE”.

The workaholic

The person on your team that lives for the job. Emails at 10pm, in the office (or on Teams) at 7am. Likes to talk shop at Friday drinks.

DON’T: Try to imply they need to slow down a bit. It could come off as a judgement.

DO: Either make sure the time they do take to relax is worth it with a nice bottle of wine, or keep them well-caffeinated with a supply of fancy coffees.


Last orders for gift cards and vouchers, and our opening hours for Christmas 2020

We know things are incredibly hectic at the minute, but we want to assure you that Appreciate Business Services will be here to help you and your business right up until the last minute this Christmas.

If you need to place an order, we’ll be able to dispatch rewards until very late in December. Or, if you need to talk to your account manager or ask our support team a question, we’ll be here right up until Christmas Eve.

Have a look below for the full details on our opening hours and last orders.

Appreciate Business Services Christmas opening hours:

  • December 24th: Open. 09:00-17:00
  • Christmas Day: Closed
  • Boxing Day: Closed
  • December 29th-31st: Open. 09:00-17:00
  • New Year’s Day: Closed
  • January 4th 2021: Open. 09:00-17:00

After January 2nd, our we go back to our usual opening hours, 09:00-17:00 Monday to Friday.

Last orders for Appreciate Business Services rewards

The last order date for your rewards varies depending on which products you want to order, as explained below. If you have any questions about these dates, you’re always welcome to get in touch with our teams. Email any time, call, or use the live chat on this page during working hours.

  • Gift cards: 22nd December
  • Branded gift cards: 15th November
  • Digital reward codes: 23rd December
  • Love2shop Contactless: 23rd December
  • Vouchers: 22nd December
  • Specialised gift card or voucher fulfilment: 17th December

As we said above, if you do have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Particularly if you want to talk about specialised fulfilment of your rewards, like delivering cards or vouchers to home addresses – the sooner we talk, the sooner we can make sure your business’ Christmas rewards are squared away this year.

The Christmas party is cancelled. How will you celebrate instead?

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind year so it feels crazy that we’re already talking about our usual festive end of year fun, the Christmas Party! At a time when we usually start parting with our Christmas party deposits and getting all excited about company festivities, there’s one thought in everyone’s mind – what is going to be the difference this year?

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that your 2020 company celebrations will likely be a lot different than the norm but hey, I think a lot of us expected it. It looks like plans will be minus the company-wide parties where let’s face it, not a lot of social distancing goes on.

It’s no wonder many companies across the UK have already cancelled their Christmas plans and with that in mind, it doesn’t surprise us that 74% of our customers say they are definitely not planning a party this year at all.

Are we putting our party shoes away this Christmas?

All these factors beg the question – how are employers going to celebrate Christmas with staff this year? Well, we surveyed a number of our clients to find out.

From those giving the Christmas party a miss, it looks like many companies haven’t yet got Christmas gifts at the top of their mind. This is likely due to all the uncertainty with finances and budgets, which has changed attitudes towards Christmas celebrations.

On the contrary, alternative rewards are already on the radar for some companies as 35% are planning an alternative way to celebrate their staff, with that number expected to increase dramatically over the coming months.

So, is it looking like a Zoom Christmas party? Well that was one of the alternative rewards we quizzed our clients about, but closer to the top came gifting cards and vouchers instead, as well as offering cash gifts and a staff rewards scheme.

It looks like some employees might also benefit from an extra days holiday at Christmas too, with this being another popular alternative. Socially distanced parties were on the cards for some, but the Christmas budget has been moved for a 2021 summer party instead.

Overall it doesn’t look like company Christmas celebrations are cancelled, it just looks like we’ll be celebrating in a different kind of way. So, will your company continue to embrace the festivities or have the challenges posed by the pandemic put a dampener on your Christmas spirit?

Case study – Digital rewards make sure healthcare heroes are recognised


A large UK healthcare provider, whose portfolio includes numerous care homes, found themselves unable to safely reward their staff with plastic gift cards following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK.


The challenge

For more than three years previously, the client had been enjoying our Love2shop Gift Cards. While we always discuss our digital reward options with clients, in this case, our client was understandably reluctant to change a winning formula – their reward scheme was producing good levels of engagement and positive feedback with using plastic gift cards.

While the client was happy with their status quo, the COVID-19 outbreak forced a change. Not only was there a sharp increase in the demands placed on the workdays of their employees, meriting more recognition and reward, but there was no safe way to distribute physical gift cards to their employees. A solution had to be found, and fast.

“Crucially, we’ve been able to keep engagement high, and keep rewarding our amazing staff, through a difficult time.”

Appreciate’ solution

After a conversation with their account manager,  Jackie Reynolds, about these difficulties, we recommended they switch to our  digital reward codes.

Our codes are an end-to-end digital product, meaning  there’s no physical interaction between our clients and their staff  when  buying or delivering them. Clients order them through our Self-Serve portal, and they’re delivered digitally. The codes themselves come to employees as emails or text messages, and those employees redeem them online. Perfect for sending rewards when physical contact is dangerous.

As it was unthinkable that our client’s incredible staff would go without rewards for their work during this difficult period, these digital rewards were a natural fit. Jackie helped them through an initial transition, and made sure the client got right back to thanking their employees with exciting rewards as soon as possible.

“The codes are so simple to use that our staff have had no trouble making the switch.”

The outcome

Most importantly, our client was able to lift morale among their staff in a trying time. For Appreciate, part of Appreciate Group plc, this is one of the aspects of our work we’re most proud of. Employees doing great things deserve to be recognised and celebrated. It’s a privilege to help deliver that for our clients.

However, the rewards have also been a success in other ways. For instance, our client’s staff have enjoyed their digital rewards so much, they are considering continuing to use digital rewards even when contact is safe in their workplace again.

The digital ordering and delivery process for our reward codes also deliver significant advantages in fulfilment and ordering. Especially when centrally managing a nationwide scheme. Our client would previously order their gift cards, and have them delivered to their central office. From there, the client would separate the rewards and send them to individual facilities, creating a time-consuming administrative task on top of postage fees.

Our simple ordering process, and digitally fulfilled rewards, massively simplified that process, removing the need for physical fulfilment. The combined effect is less time, and less money, being spent to deliver better rewards.

Jackie Reynolds, the Love2Shop Engagement Consultant who managed the project, added: “What’s good to see is how easily their staff have adapted to their new rewards. Many clients have concerns about changing their staff rewards, especially if it involves technology, but our experience is usually that employees adapt quickly to the switch. It’s heartening to see that’s also the case for this challenge, given how important these rewards are to the client.”

Our contact inside the company said: “All our worries about switching from plastic to digital evaporated straight away. The codes are so simple to use that our staff have had no trouble making the switch. Crucially, we’ve also been able to keep engagement high, and keep rewarding our amazing staff through a difficult time.

“Appreciate, and our account manager Jackie, have done a great job helping us quickly make the change, and making sure that our incredible staff get the thanks and rewards they deserve so much during this difficult period.”



*At the request of our client, this case study has been anonymised.

News: Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels UK and Ireland delights 4,000 employees with the launch of the Leo Points recognition scheme

This week, hotel chain Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels UK and Ireland, has enhanced its employee value proposition, with the launch of a social recognition platform.

Titled ‘Leo Points’, this peer-to-peer recognition system hands every employee the opportunity to publicly celebrate their colleagues’ achievements. That could be anything from chipping in to help prepare rooms on time for guests, to being named personally on a guest review. In fact, anything that employees and their peers value.

By letting all Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels employees recognise each other – regardless of their place in the company – Leo Points puts aside traditional organisational hierarchies, to bring the whole company together through one platform. This helps employees build better relationships with their work, their colleagues and their employer.

Sarah Hoyle, Group Employee Relations and Engagement Manager at Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels UK and Ireland, said: “Our employees are positive, helpful and dedicated people, and we are extremely proud of the outstanding work they do every day.

We believe they deserve recognition, not just from their managers but also from each other. Leo Points will give all of our employees the chance to recognise the amazing things their colleagues do day in, day out. We’re excited to see our employees celebrate what makes their work at Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels UK and Ireland so special!”

As a leading hotel chain, employees range from kitchen porters to receptionists, and are located across the UK and Ireland and operate under two brands.  Leo Points bridges the divide, allowing both fixed and mobile workers to recognise each other’s achievements in real time.

The system provides a way to recognise those who demonstrate the company’s culture and values – characterised by enthusiasm and doing the simple things brilliantly, whilst upholding traditional hospitality principles.

Adam Whatling, Global Engagement Lead at Appreciate, said: “The employees at Jurys Inns and Leonardo Hotels are going to love recognising each other through Leo Points. With 3,800+ employees spread across 48 hotels in the UK, they are a perfect candidate for our centralised recognition platform.

When the Brighton team celebrate each other’s achievements, employees from every hotel in the company, all the way up to Inverness, will be able to see it and offer their congratulations.

That inclusive, positive recognition will guide Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels UK and Ireland to a more collaborative and supportive environment for all of their employees. We are all ecstatic about the launch, and we can’t wait to see Jurys Inns and Leonardo Hotel teams embrace the program and celebrate their exceptional work.”

Christmas opening hours for 2019/20

We hope you and your team will be taking a well-earned break over Christmas.

We trust you’ll take the chance to spend some time with your family and friends, and enjoy your Love2shop Gift Cards, Reward Codes and Vouchers. Our teams will also be taking a few days over Christmas to relax after another busy Christmas season.

Appreciate Christmas and New Year opening hours:

  • 24th December – Closed from 12:00
  • 25th December – Closed all day
  • 26th December – Closed all day
  • 27th December – Closed all day

We’ll re-open on the 30th and 31st, then we’re closed for New Year’s Day on the 1st of January.

On Thursday the 2nd, we go back to our usual posted opening hours, and you will be able to reach our business development and support teams just as you normally would.

Last orders for Christmas rewards

Love2shop Rewards help boost employee retentionOur teams can take orders for physical delivery of Christmas rewards right up until 15:00 on the 18th of December. That’s only a few days away, so if you haven’t sorted anything out for the office yet, get in touch!

You can also place orders for our digital reward codes any time through our self-serve platform for next-day delivery right up until the 23rd of December. If you haven’t been set up on self-serve yet, you just need to talk to our team.

If you have any questions about orders or opening hours, you’re welcome to get in touch. We’d be happy to help you, right up until 12:00 on the 24th.


News: Appreciate Group & CleverGift launch UK’s first fully digital multi-brand gift card for mobile wallets

Appreciate Group are Appreciate’ parent company. They’re a leading gifting and engagement business, and they’re experts at creating joyful experiences and connecting people to the things in life they enjoy the most.

Under the Appreciate Group marquee, our sister company has just launched a groundbreaking new digital gift service, which will bring more even more joy to personal gifting. Their press release has all the details you need:

Leading gifting and engagement company, Appreciate Group, has launched the UK’s first fully digital multi-brand gift card with add-to-wallet capabilities.

The UK-first technology – available now – enables consumers and businesses to send the ‘Select Digital Gift Card’ instantly by email, text, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

Once activated by the recipient, the digital gift card can be used online or in-store through their mobile wallet at a host of major UK retail brands.

By enabling the recipient to check their balance at any time, the gift card strips away the age-old problem of people forgetting how much they’ve spent on their unused gift cards.

Appreciate Group has collaborated with payments technology business CleverGift to launch the UK-first technology, which is available for consumers and business now through, the nation’s most popular online voucher store.

The Select Digital Gift Card “completely reimagines” how gift cards should work, enabling people to send cards instantly and directly to family, friends or colleagues by email, SMS, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

With no postage costs or waste, the gift card converts to a secure Prepaid Mastercard once activated by the recipient and they can then spend the full value of the gift card in-store or by simply tapping their mobile wallet at more than 6,400 outlets of 61 of the most popular retail brands in the UK.

By enabling the recipient to check their balances at any time, the gift card also removes the age-old problem of people forgetting which gift cards they’ve used or what balance they have remaining.

“We’re proud to be the first company in the UK to bring this type of technology to market,” said Appreciate Group CEO, Ian O’Doherty. “It’s a real game-changer in many ways as it completely reimagines how gift cards should work in a mobile-enabled world.

“We want to make celebrating, rewarding or creating moments of joy – whether that be buying a gift card for someone special or as a thank you to a colleague – to be incredibly simple, and the Select Digital Gift Card does that.”

Appreciate Group, which owns and operates the brand, is already trusted by millions of consumers and businesses to help them create moments they can treasure and remember whether they are giving, receiving or experiencing something special.

CleverGift is a payments technology business with offices in Dublin, Ireland. It’s CEO and Founder Kealan Lennon, said: “Appreciate Group has shown bold ambition and a real commitment to testing the limits of innovation, which shows amazing forward thinking.

“The Select Digital Gift Card takes the concept of gifting truly into the mobile era and gives customers the maximum freedom of choice wherever and whenever they chose to use their gifts.

“Contactless payments and mobile wallets represent a huge – and growing – share of payments and now is the time to embrace this type of technology. We’re proud to be working alongside Appreciate Group to launch this product and to help them strengthen their market leading position in the UK.”

For customers’ security and safety, access to the gift card via mobile will only be available by using two-factor authentication.

Learn more about our parent company, Appreciate Group, on their website here.

Learn more about our b2c sister company,, on their website here.

The 2018 Shout! Stand

Drop by and say hi to us at EB Live and the CIPD Annual Conference

Some of the Appreciate team will be popping up at two of the huge HR events of the year.

We hope you drop in and say hello.

The Appreciate stand will be promoting our recognition platform, Shout!, but we’re always happy to talk to our clients.

While you drop in for a chat, you can have a bit of fun on the stand and enter our competition.

We’ll be exhibiting at two major events this year, EB Live and the CIPD Annual Conference.

Employee Benefits Live

What: Employee Benefits Live is Europe’s biggest event dedicated to HR and benefits.

When: 1-2 October, 2019.

Stand: E65

Where: ExCel, London.


CIPD Annual Conference

What: CIPD’s Annual Conference is a huge two-day learning and exhibition opportunity for the HR industry.

When: 6-7 November, 2019.

Stand: We’re on stand F95.

Where: Manchester Central Convention Complex.


We look forward to seeing you there

Drop us a line if you’ll be at either event! We had a great time at EB Live 2018, we’re really looking forward to this year’s event.

Goodbye, old friend: we are discontinuing the £1 Love2shop Gift Voucher

After more than twenty years, Love2shop is saying goodbye to the £1 denomination of the Love2shop Gift Voucher.

We know it’s the right thing to do, and we know we’re doing this for the right reasons, but it’s still a little bit bittersweet.

Our £1 voucher has been a part of the history of not just Appreciate, but our sister companies and Park Christmas Savings too.

Over the years the £1 voucher has been there for hundreds of thousands of birthdays, Christmas dinners, presents, incentives, rewards and more.

The times, they are a-changing

But, it’s time for us to make this change. There just isn’t the same demand for a £1 voucher these days, and as of August 15th 2019, the voucher will disappear.

Our Business Development team, Love2shop Self-Serve, and will stop selling the voucher to the public.

Don’t panic if you have a clutch of £1 vouchers that haven’t been redeemed yet.

Any vouchers still in circulation will honoured until their expiry date, that’s still business as usual.

We’ll also keep stocking the £5 and £10 vouchers, so any clients with a paper preference will be catered for.

Seizing an opportunity

Change isn’t a bad thing though. It’s an opportunity.

Love2shop, and Park Group itself, have always been proud of our ability to adapt and develop over time.

While the £1 voucher is sailing off into the sunset, we’re strengthening what we offer in other areas.

For instance, over the last year our gift card has seen an enormous surge in of interest.

Many more of our clients making the full-time switch to plastic.

In turn, we’ve strengthened the gift card by opening our library of e-gift cards.

E-gift cards are a further selection of brands a cardholder can access through or our app.

You can read more about how great our e-gift card options are here.

The Love2shop app

Speaking of our app, the Love2shop App itself is a huge development.

It brings the Love2shop Gift Card experience back in line with what modern consumers expect from their digital experience.

Card registration, finding places to spend, trading for e-gift cards, managing cards and more is now a seamless mobile on experience on Apple and Android.

Talk to us

If you have any concerns about how the disappearance of the £1 voucher might affect your business’ rewards or incentives, just get in touch.

Our team are available 09:00 -17:00 on weekdays, and they’re always happy to help our clients.

You can call, email, or use the web chat function on this site.