Fifty years since UK's first credit card was conceived in an ex-Northampton shoe factory
Barclay's Bank decided on Christmas Eve 1965 to go ahead and launch the UK's very first credit card.
A team of only seven Barclays staff were given just six months to prepare for the launch of a piece of blue and gold plastic that would change shopping in this country, eliminating bad debt and entire credit departments .
One of their first acts was to set up camp in a disused shoe factory in Northampton Aquila House, in. St Giles Terrace.
Early promises to retailers to publish the details of every shop accepting Barclaycard led to what was one of the largest-ever press ads . It appeared in the Daily Mail on June 29, extending over eight pages and carrying all 30,000 names and addresses. It took 200 Barclays staff all night to proof read.
Fifty years later, that small bit of plastic has transformed shopping, making it easier and more convenient for stores and their customers.
Today, the company employs more than 3,000 people at Pavilion Drive, Brackmills, making it one of the town’s biggest employers.
A total of 31 million people now own a credit card and monthly spend exceeds £15bn.
Amer Sajed, chief executive of Barclaycard, said: “Back in the Sixties, cash and cheques were the most popular form of payment and the idea of ‘paying by plastic’ was completely alien to most people.”
Although there were only 200 employees when Barclaycard began, the firm now employs thousands across the globe.
Pamela Pow , now based at its modern Brackmills HQ has worked for the company for 35 years. She said: “The technology has changed massively but the people have always remained like a family. In fact several staff are related.”
After St Giles Street, the firm rapidly expanded and by the 1990’s was operating from six offices: above Greyfriars bus station, the £2.5m, Barclaycard House, where Sol Central now stands in Marefair, St James Mill Road, Heathfields Way and Grafton Street.
Northampton has always been the cradle of innovation for the firm and was the first in the UK to trial Chip and PIN in 2003.
Mr Sajed said: “The scale of our growth is testament to the hard work and dedication of all of our colleagues;
“Northampton has always been a key hub for Barclaycard, and it will continue to be so for years to come.”
FACTFILE - History of the Barclaycard:
-On 29 June 1966, Barclaycard launched the first credit card with a six-page business strategy, an investment of £20,000, and thirty employees who operated from a converted shoe factory.
-Within 12 months, over a million consumers in the UK had signed up for a Barclaycard credit card, which then could be used to make purchases of up to £25.
-Almost forty years later, Northampton was the first place in the UK to trial Chip and PIN in 2003, which was introduced by Barclaycard as a means of combatting fraud and making credit and debit card spend safer.
-As part of the innovative pilot, over half of the adult population of Northampton trialled the new cards and almost 1,000 businesses took part, from pubs and restaurants to hairdressers, florists and jewellers, as well as large retailers including Asda and Safeway.
-Barclaycard has remained at the forefront with £1 in every £3 spent in the UK now going through the company.
-Last year Barclaycard processed 4.6 billion transactions in the UK alone, equating to more than half a million every hour, and £293bn in payments across the globe – a 14 per cent annual increase on the 2014 figure.
FACTFILE - Barclaycard’s community work in Northamptonshire
· Easy Street: a programme to help local businesses grow by putting them in direct contact with thousands of new customers. The event gives local merchants the opportunity to sell their goods and services to Barclaycard employees. Since launching in 2011, the programme has supported over 100 small businesses and generated around £190,000 in additional income for those involved.
· Horizons: funded by Barclaycard between 2007-2012, Horizons was designed to support single-parent families with money management, education and work. Over five years the project has helped over 37,000 parents and almost 9,000 children.
· Sywell Country Park: since 2014, over 360 employees have volunteered their time to help improve the landscape and facilities of the park, including installing a family play area and developing woodland trails. In total, the Barclays Group has donated almost £40,000.