$4 Billion Trade Dollars Later, Bartercard Celebrates 25 Years
Bartercard, New Zealand’s original digital currency channel, has racked up more than $4 billion worth trading since it launched in this country in late 1992. Twenty-five years later, the company now has 15,000 cardholders nationwide and more than 6,000 active member businesses who are served by 110 staff in 13 offices.
One of those members is Auckland-based Kennedy Furniture Ltd which has been an active Bartercard member since day two. Kennedy Furniture director Kevin Johnstone is as enthusiastic about Bartercard now as he was then. “To be a part of something from its inception is a unique experience. It’s been a privilege to see how Bartercard has evolved over the past 25 years and how the network has grown. Bartercard has been of great benefit to our business from the start and still is 25 years later,” he says.
Bartercard New Zealand chief executive John Scott, who has been with the company almost five years after a long career in business finance and data, says the quarter century birthday is a significant achievement for a company and a concept that some people struggle to understand.
“We were one of the first companies in the world to offer a digital currency where no money actually trades hands. That took a bit of explaining in 1992 and, to some degree, it still does. The best way to use Bartercard is to use trade dollars to offset a proportion of cash spending and then use the funds generated to reinvest in your business. It does require a bit of lateral thinking to make the Bartercard network work for you. Our most successful members are the one who put in the effort and treat Bartercard as another business channel that can help grow their business,” says Scott.
He gives the example of the recent Lions tour. With hotels and motels running at 95 per cent occupancy, Bartercard members in places like Rotorua set up temporary accommodation for the Barmy Army, using their Trade Dollars. This was such a creative approach and showed their willingness to use Bartercard to offset some of their cash expenses and thereby bring in new business.”
With Bartercard now operating in eight countries, and plans in place to expand further, its New Zealand business is seen as a global innovator. “We’ve successfully developed systems and solutions here that have been deployed globally, including a web-enabled search app and sales tracker databases. New Zealand is used as an incubator for new technology-driven initiatives because we’re digitally enabled, early adopters and known for our ability to back ourselves,” says Scott.
Coming up next year is a mobile-enabled app which will list all New Zealand members’ products and services and link to Bartercard’s everyday rewards programme, bucqi. Scott is also working on an improved platform that will delivery real-time information based on the behaviours and buying preference of members.
“The future is around convergence – products, services and rewards. The trade economy is essentially about identifying idle capacity and, rather than giving it away, moving it in a more effective way that lets business owners reinvest in their company.”
Scott says 70 per cent of Bartercard New Zealand members have relationships within the trade exchange that last more than four years. And external research covering 10 years’ worth of data from new members show their average sales grow by almost 10 per cent in their first 12 months. “So, if you want to grow your business, Bartercard is an effective tool.”
Strong member relationships and community activities are an important part of the Bartercard story, with the Bartercard Foundation, set up in 2010, supporting a wide range of charities. 100% of the donations raised by the Foundation go to the chosen charity, with Bartercard New Zealand paying for all the costs of operating the trust. This year, it raised T$130,000 for Heart Kids NZ. Bartercard also sponsors the New Zealand Breakers.
To celebrate its milestone birthday, Bartercard head office and regional members have made a series of matching donations to worthy community groups, such as 50 bags of dog food to a pet shelter in Auckland and 50 boxes of nappies for Women’s Refuge in Auckland.