Specialist stores such as bakeries are closing at an alarming rate, but a new type of loyalty card could halt the slide.

The Wedge card has been launched in Lambs Conduit Street, London, and is the brainchild of Big Issue founder John Bird and his daughter, Diana. It provides discounts and special offers from independent shops to Wedge card subscribers, but also enables customers to show their loyalty to local shops and communities.

Supermarkets are barred from the scheme as no store with more than 10 branches can be a member. Instead it is intended for small independent shops.

Of the £20 that customers pay for their Wedge card, £5 goes to the seller, £5 to charity and the remaining £10 to the Wedge company. The scheme is soon to be introduced to other areas of London, including Stratford, Brixton, Marylebone, Southwark, Covent Garden and Notting Hill.

It is hoped that Wedge’s introduction will halt a depressing slide that the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Small Shops says could result in many small shops ceasing to trade by 2015. According to the Institute of Grocery Distribution, 2,157 independent convenience retailers closed in 2004, double the number in the year before.