In 2021, 1068 Antwerp merchants used Antwerpen Ucoin to do business. The virtual currency was launched by the city with the intention of supporting the local economy following the outbreak of Covid 19. Focused on the hospitality and retail sectors, Ucoins were given to employees and consumers to go spend at local businesses.
In view of stimulating local consumption following the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic, the Antwerp city council decided this spring to create a virtual currency under the name Antwerpen Ucoin that could only be spent at local business within the city. The Antwerpen Ucoin program ended on December 31, 2021. Here are some highlights of what the local currency achieved: “The Antwerpen Ucoin turned out to be a financial booster for Antwerp traders,” said Alderman for tourism and local economy Koen Kennis. “Nearly 13 million euros flowed into the local economy. No extra paperwork, no commissions, yielding extra customers and more consumption. A payment within 2 working days. Exactly what our entrepreneurs needed to get through a difficult period.' Moreover, many businesses have gained new customers as a result. Customers who have found their way to these businesses thanks to the use of Antwerpen Ucoin.
To this end, the city council had developed two initiatives. In June, 16,000 city employees were paid a consumption credit worth 300 euros. Anyone who made a purchase at a registered merchant received a discount of up to 66%. One third paid by the customer out of their pocket, two thirds with Antwerpen Ucoins.
To encourage the public to spend locally, the ‘I buy Antwerps’ competition was launched, in which winners received a similar discount, provided they stay overnight in a recognized local Antwerp hotel to further stimulate consumption at local hotels and B&Bs.
Koen Kennis: 'Between June and the end of December, we reached 1,068 entrepreneurs. 393 merchants recorded a turnover of more than 5,000 euros. 253 merchants reported a turnover of more than 10,000 euros thanks to Antwerp Ucoins. As many as 112 merchants saw more than 25,000 euros come in through Antwerpen Ucoin holders. The extra turnover for 48 businesses was above 50,000 euros and for 16 Antwerp businesses that amount even rose to more than 100,000 euros. The Antwerp hotel sector recorded an extra turnover of more than 1,000,000 euros thanks to the competition 'I buy Antwerps'.
In total, 12.434.516 euros flowed to the entrepreneurs in more than 92.000 transactions. 7.6 million euros of this was spent in the retail sector, with clothing and electronics as the biggest sellers. 4.1 million euros was spent in the Antwerp catering industry, almost 3 million of which went to restaurant visits. The sports sector also benefited, with more than 637.000 euros in expenditure. The culture sector recorded 57.000 euros in revenue through Antwerpen Ucoins.
Alderman Koen Kennis: 'It was an example of how to set up a successful ecosystem, a win/win for consumers, entrepreneurs and the social urban fabric. That was the intention of the city council from the start.”