The store is based in the ground floor ‘high street’ location of City House in Bradford city centre and has been developed in partnership with the Northern Housing Consortium. It is also supported by the social purpose bank, Charity Bank, a loans and savings bank with a mission to use money only for the common good.
Smarterbuys offers affordable credit facilities for all Incommunities’ customers and is an alternative to turning to high cost lenders and loan sharks.
It is conveniently located so customers can also access local housing services and community banking facilities provided by Bradford District Credit Union.
Local Government Minister and Keighley MP, Kris Hopkins cut a ceremonial ribbon at the entrance to the store to mark its official opening.
It is the first time a Yorkshire and Humberside housing association has launched a Smarterbuys retail outlet for its customers.
The store sells everything from white goods such as washing machines, cookers and fridges to televisions, furniture and smaller electrical items such as laptops and tablets.
There are various affordable finance options including weekly credit payment plans as well as credit and debit card facilities.
An affordability assessment and credit check is made into all applicants to ensure they can comfortably repay any loan agreed.
Products are also available for sale to the wider public.
The store has been running since September 2014 and attracts over 800 customers a week. By the end of 2014 over 160 customers had entered into loan agreements for different items.
Geraldine Howley, Incommunities Group Chief Executive said: “We are delighted to be working with the Northern Housing Consortium and the Charity Bank to offer this new service.
“We are committed to providing responsible financial assistance and advice to our customers, many of whom face living with tight household budgets.
“This new Smarterbuys Store provides affordable options and an invaluable alternative to getting into debt with unscrupulous high-cost lenders. It is also proving a great place to go for people moving home or looking to brighten up their own home.”
Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium, said: “The opening of the Smarterbuys Store is great news for Bradford and shows that Incommunities have a real desire to make a difference to residents’ lives.
“By offering a genuine affordable alternative to high-cost lenders we can help people buy the items they need in a way that can mean they don’t have to go without other essentials or resort to loan sharks.”
Jeremy Ince, Regional Manager at Charity Bank said: “We believe that banking should work only for the common good and this innovative partnership is a way of providing fair finance, where it’s badly needed.”
Local Government Minister, Kris Hopkins, said: “I’m pleased to see Incommunities become the first housing association in the region to offer this service, right at the heart of Bradford’s city centre.
“This new initiative will enable new residents to make their property their home, and I want to see more housing associations across the country looking to see what more they can do to support their tenants.”
Customers can also shop at Smarterbuys by going online at www.incommunities.sbstore.org
Photo shows Kris Hopkins and Geraldine Howley with left: Adrienne Reid (Incommunities) and right Jeremy Ince (Charity Bank), Jo Boaden (NHC), Lesley Richardson (Prince Bishops Community Bank) and Dave Dickens (Incommunities)