In 2023, enterprises in Sunderland experienced a substantial upsurge, courtesy of the continuous triumph of the city’s gift card scheme.

Since its launch in 2020 by Sunderland BID the card has created sales of more than £265,000 for companies operating across retail, hospitality and leisure.

And 2023 has proven to be the best year yet, with sales of £137,930 – representing a massive 86 per cent increase on the previous year.

The card is now accepted across 184 different businesses, with new ones constantly coming on board.

Pre-Christmas the Empire Theatre signed up, as did Keel Tavern, one of the city’s newest bars and restaurants.

Ollie Vaulkhard of Vaulkhard Group which owns the venue, believes it was important to be part of the scheme.

“We are new to the business community in Sunderland and welcome the opportunity to meet our peers and extend our hospitality to them,” he said.

“There are so many exciting things happening in the city and we hope that people receiving the gift card will come and enjoy what we have to offer at Keel Tavern.”

Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive of Sunderland BID, believes the impressive total has been helped by bulk purchases by corporate customers, who have seen it both as a way to reward staff, thank customers and support the local economy at the same time.

“This is a fantastic result for 2023 and it shows that more people are aware of the gift card and are choosing it as a way of gifting,” said Sharon.

“An increasing number of businesses are also choosing it as a way to say thank you to staff as it means they can use it to buy something they really want and support local traders at the same time.

“We’re hoping that in 2024 even more organisations will consider the Sunderland Gift Card when and if they need to reward employees.”

Cards can be bought online at or at sales points at the Bridges, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, National Glass Centre, Houghton and Washington libraries.

They are also available as digital downloads which can be bought online and then go directly into the wallet of the recipient.

Any businesses interested in signing up for the scheme should contact for more information.

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