Stanley-headquartered Smarterbuys Store, which operates throughout the UK, was launched 18 months ago to provide an ethical alternative to loan sharks and high street weekly payment stores. The initiative provides affordable credit for social housing tenants who need it to buy household essentials such as white goods, furniture and electrical items.
Now customers have collectively benefited from the scheme – a partnership between Northern Housing Consortium, Derwentside Homes and Prince Bishops Community Bank – to the tune of £1m.
The milestone was reached with a loan of almost £700 to Steven Dickinson from Bolton. He used the money to buy a new cooker after his existing one had broken and will pay the loan back over the next two years.
Steven, a tenant of social landlord Bolton At Home, said: “This money is vital to me. My old cooker had broken and I was living on pot noodles for two weeks. I needed a new cooker urgently and wouldn’t have been able to afford it without the funds provided by Smarterbuys Store.
“It’s a great scheme for social housing tenants as many of them haven’t got much disposable income but need funds to buy essential goods. I did look at alternative finance providers on the high street but the rates on their loans were just too high. At least Smarterbuys Store has given me a means of paying back the loan at a rate that’s affordable.”
Smarterbuys Store is now working with 12 social landlords across the country to provide tenants with access to an online store, where they can purchase new furniture and white goods. If the tenant is not in a position to purchase the essential items up front, Smarterbuys Store also provides them with access to responsible and affordable credit, with the 24.19% APR rate on the loan much lower than high street alternatives.
The scheme also encourages tenants to save as they buy by putting 25p from every weekly payment into a savings account opened especially for them.
Jacqui Grimes, programme manager for Smarterbuys Store, said: “This initiative is designed to help people who don’t want to get tied down by a high interest loan that could end up forcing them into debt. Affordable credit is there for people who need it and for those that don’t they still have the option of buying from an online store that sells quality goods at fair prices.”
“Our products are up to 40% cheaper than other weekly payment stores and we are committed to promoting an ethical approach to lending.”
Smarterbuys Store is open to social housing tenants whose landlord is participating in the scheme, which currently has 12 social housing franchisees across the country and continues to grow.
Jon Lord, chief executive of Bolton At Home, added: “We signed up to Smarterbuys Store because it’s a great way of providing local residents with credit for household items that they really need – but without the high costs traditionally associated with weekly payment stores. It is genuinely having a positive impact on household budgets and the quality of people’s lives.”