INDEPENDENT businesses in Ramsbottom have signed up to a new mobile app to encourage people to shop locally.

Phlok rewards customers who shop locally by giving them points, which act as a virtual currency, and can then be collected and used at any business which has signed up.

In addition, points are also awarded for ‘following’ or ‘checking in’ at participating businesses on their app.

Ramsbottom is one of a select few towns where the scheme is to be operated, following Congleton in Cheshire and Ilkley in West Yorkshire.

18 businesses in Ramsbottom signed up to the scheme, which was launched on Saturday by representatives of the organisation.

Phlok makes its money by charging businesses a subscription fee for being part of the scheme, while businesses do not lose money as a result of customers claiming their points, as Phlok reimburses them for purchases made using points.

Gregg Fletcher, who is chairman of Ramsbottom Business Group and whose own shop Purple Tiger is participating, said he is confident that the idea will take off in the town.

He said: “The whole idea is to keep money in the town, and support independent busi-nesses.

“For example, if someone had come down to Ramsbottom for the day and knew they weren’t going to be coming back for a while, and they had £10.50 worth of points, they could use it and essentially shop for free.”

Mr Fletcher said it is hoped the scheme would become a long-term initiative to encourage people to support independent businesses in the town.

Phlok was set up in Ireland in 2012, where it is now active in more than 30 towns and has hundreds of businesses signed up to it.