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Retail giant takes ‘Mint’ approach to staff rewards in Sunderland

Online grocery retailer Ocado is taking a local first approach to its employee reward and recognition initiatives in Sunderland. The 200 plus employees at the Ocado… View Article


Retail giant takes ‘Mint’ approach to staff rewards in Sunderland

Online grocery retailer Ocado is taking a local first approach to its employee reward and recognition initiatives in Sunderland.

The 200 plus employees at the Ocado Retail Contact Centre at the Riverside, Sunderland can earn a virtual currency called ‘Ocadough’ to either save or spend on their employee platform Mint. Ocado Retail’s Mint platform launched in 2023 and applies gamification to reward and recognition.

Opening three times a year, the Mint ‘shop’ gives employees access to a range of tangible products, including the Sunderland Gift Card from Sunderland BID which can be spent with over 190 national and independent businesses in the city.

Ocado Retail also uses the Sunderland Gift Card to stock the Mint shop with physical gifts that employees can buy with their Ocadough. The top selling item in 2023 through the Mint shop was the Sunderland Gift Card, with employees using the card in a range of local businesses.

The Sunderland Gift Card is part of the award winning Town & City Gift Card initiative from Miconex active across the UK and Ireland with over £30 million spent with local businesses to date.

Kelly Swinney is Head of Customer Hub at Ocado Retail and said the move to the Sunderland Gift Card was a lightbulb moment:

“In the past, we used to use Amazon vouchers to reward staff but with the new Mint platform we made the decision to change the approach, knowing that Amazon vouchers wouldn’t deliver what we wanted to achieve.

“I’m also part of the Sunderland business networking community, and Town & City Gift Cards were mentioned at one of the meetings. It was a lightbulb moment when we thought ‘why are we using Amazon vouchers when we could be putting money back into the city’.

“Starting to use our local Town & City Gift Card, the Sunderland Gift Card, was a no-brainer for us but first we had to understand from colleagues if it was something they wanted. We hosted workshops where we showed staff the businesses that were part of the Sunderland Gift Card, and they were happy with the choice on offer through the card.

“There were lots of big brands that they recognised, but equally there were lots of independent stores and businesses. Ocado Retail is 50% owned by M&S, and as the M&S Sunderland store is part of the Sunderland Gift Card, it also gave employees the chance to spend their card there, if they chose to. When it comes to reward and recognition, we are guided by the voice of our people.

“With 60% of our team living in the city, the Sunderland Gift Card first and foremost offers choice for our team and flexibility but is equally about giving back to our community. With the challenges that businesses have faced over recent years, it’s super important that we’re supporting our city and its businesses, from the big brands to the smaller businesses.

“A popular way to use the card was employees going to Greggs to buy their lunch! But employees could also choose to save up their gift card for Christmas and I know many team members used their Sunderland Gift Cards at places like JD Sports to buy presents or at Primark to buy their Christmas pyjamas.”

Ocado Retail has also used the Sunderland Gift Card within an ad-hoc reward and recognition initiative and for their Christmas team celebration.

Kelly adds: “Another initiative we have to reward and recognise our teams at Ocado Retail is where staff receive a mug containing treats and a £10 Sunderland Gift Card. If a staff member spots an employee who is displaying our values, they’ll pop the mug on their desk so the staff member can use their Sunderland Gift Card to get a coffee in Starbucks.

“As an online grocery retailer, Christmas is obviously our busiest time so we celebrate Christmas in January. Team managers were given a Sunderland Gift Card and a choice of 4 restaurants so their team could enjoy a meal together. It was really well received with 97% satisfaction for the initiative from the team.

“The feedback we’ve had from staff to the Sunderland Gift Card has been really positive. Colleagues are happy and prefer the Sunderland Gift Card to the Amazon vouchers we used in the past. Post pandemic, and I think staff really enjoy the experiential aspect of the card; they can go shopping on a Thursday night, go for a meal as a team or use it in any other way they choose, and that feels more meaningful and more personal.

“It’s the small things that have the biggest impact and for us the Sunderland Gift Card offers choice and flexibility for staff, with support for local as part of our community ethos. The Sunderland Gift Card is working for us and for our team.”

Sharon Appleby is the Chief Executive of Sunderland BID commmented: “As a leading employer in the area, Ocado Retail is showing the positive impact that organisations can have when they think local first, blending the needs of employees with support for the city. The innovation Ocado Retail has shown with its use of the Sunderland Gift Card is admirable, and demonstrates just how versatile the card is as a reward, and how appreciated it is by staff.

“Ocado Retail making the move to local is helping to keep our city thriving. I encourage all organisations to consider how they can use their local gift card to transform their reward and recognition initiatives for the better.”

Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex commented “In our 2023 research, 94% of organisations said supporting local was important when planning rewards and incentives, and 76% support local to take an active role in the success of their community. And it’s key for employees too with 98% saying they’re keen to support local. A Town & City Gift Card is the only gift card that offers the big brands people know with the local businesses they love, enabling organisations like Ocado Retail to give their staff ultimate local choice, catering for all ages and interests, and a tangible cash injection for local businesses.”

The Sunderland Gift Card is available to buy online or in person from five physical sales points including the Bridges Shopping Centre, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and National Glass Centre. Organisations can also buy the card through a dedicated corporate ordering site.

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