Loyally yours...

Like nearly every café on the planet, we have a loyalty card scheme, and have done so for years. Little printed cards which is stamped for every drink purchase and when seven stamps have been racked up, the eighth drink is on us!

We laugh with the customers when they open their purse or wallet and sift through the various café and restaurant loyalty cards before pushing their bay tree café card (or in some cases another cafe's card) across the counter to claim the reward for their purchase.

As a café owner, I have stood at the counter thinking is there any point? Everyone's doing this loyalty card thing, so does it really bring customer loyalty? The answer is yes, it most certainly does although you have to take a step back and look at the wider picture.

Customer loyalty has been rewarded in various forms for years and years. I am sure some readers can cast their minds back to the 1960's and '70s (giving my age away here) and the Green Shield stamp? I got a small fish tank this way. Mum would do her shopping, earn her stamps, stick them in a book and then swap them for items in a catalogue. It was a great feeling to get something without handing money over! If I am correct, this catalogue later became Argos, a name younger readers will recognise.

Around the same time, I recall petrol stations handing out hideous wine glasses (yes, mum collected those too) and plastic Smurf figures which I adored. Since then the variety of schemes has continued to grow becoming part of our everyday life ie, the Club Card, Advantage card, Nectar, Airmiles, to name a few but I imagine there are many thousands of schemes in physical or app form.

Bay Tree Café is an independent, a small fish in a big pond of cafes, all wanting customer attention. Trends come and go but the loyalty card (or app) is still loved by many of all ages and it continues to bring people to the high street. Customer loyalty, however small is vital, and even if we only get one in four of a customer's coffee purchases, its better than none and our little stamp on a card is our way of saying 'thank you, please come again'. If the other 3 coffees are bought in Bury St Edmunds at cafes offering the same type of scheme (even better if they are independents), then four businesses benefit and ultimately, the knock on means that people will come, walk round our streets, shop in our shops and Bury St Edmunds will hold on to it's eclectic choice of wonderful coffee houses and eateries.

The loyalty card is such a simple way for customers and businesses to support each other. I think the term is 'sharing the love' : )



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