The Irish punt is being accepted in 42 shops in a border town as payment for goods alongside the euro and sterling, in the first move of its kind by a town in this country.
The currency became all but obsolete when the euro was introduced 10 years ago, but there is still over £285m — valued at €362m — “outstanding”.
While it is no longer legal tender, notes and coins can still be exchanged for euro at the Central Bank in Dublin.
But, for the past two months, shoppers in the Monaghan border town of Clones can dispose of the former currency in local shops. Some 42 shops in the town, including SuperValu, are accepting it as payment for shopping.
“We give change in vouchers that can be used in any of the 42 shops in our town,” said shopkeeper Tony Morgan.
He was the first retailer to re-introduce the punt. That was two months ago and “we have taken in about £1,000,” he said.
His shop, Liptons, has championed the ‘Embrace the Punt’ campaign.
Crucially, his move to accept the punt alongside the euro and sterling has led to “people coming to Clones who were never in the town before”.
Clones is just 1km from the Fermanagh border and has traditionally been bypassed by shoppers on their way to Enniskillen or other larger regional towns.
More than 50% of units on the main street of Clones are closed, according to the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Finbarr Dunwoody.
“Our town has been starved of business and we will do anything we can to get people shopping here. Nearly the crazier the better,” he added.
“This initiative has brought hope back to the town. All 42 shops are united in their efforts to market the town and are supporting this. It is self-supportive economics. The fact that it’s a crazy idea only lends to its appeal in the community.”
He has seen a huge increase in the number of business people now actively involved in trying to promote Clones through its use of the punt, saying “this is new, it is innovative and it is working”.
The idea follows a similar initiative by 60 shops in the Spanish town of Mugardos.
However, the process of the permanent punt exchange — which costs €368,000 yearly to run — is under review and “may be closed off in future,” the Central Bank has said.
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