UK Retailers Say Yes to Cash
Major retailers across the UK have signed a pledge to accept cash. The campaign—launched by consumer rights group Which?—is backed by the Bank of England and retail associations urging their members to commit.
Pushing back against the pandemic-driven trend of businesses refusing cash, Aldi, Asda, Co-op and Waitrose are the headline supermarkets promising customers the freedom to choose payment by banknotes and coins. Department store John Lewis has also signed up, alongside Lloyds Pharmacy, which has 1,400 branches nationwide.
The Association of Convenience Stores, the British Independent Retailers Association, the British Retail Consortium and the Federation of Small Businesses are all promoting the scheme as a positive move for their members, and the Bank of England has also lent its support.
Addressing the Which? Cash Summit in May, John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, referred to commentators who compare cash and digital payments with previous technological innovations to demonstrate new developments do not require previous systems to make way. He drew a parallel with virtual meetings, which have been particularly valuable during the pandemic, and will work alongside in-person interactions going forward, rather than replacing them.
While the world is changing, we in government are also very much aware that cash is still incredibly important to many people.
Cash payments offer particular benefits for small businesses, with a recent case study by This is Money on a high street in York finding local shopkeepers enjoyed a boost in trade since a free-to-use ATM was installed in April.
Previously, small businesses had to direct customers wanting to withdraw cash to the nearest supermarket, resulting in lost trade as those people then shopped at the larger store. Now, with the free machine nearby, shopkeepers reported they are retaining the business. In addition to this boost, some remarked on the costs of accepting card payments affecting their bottom line, and their consequent preference for cash.
The card machine has cost me around £800 since January, and that doesn’t even include rental costs. Cash payments don’t cost me a penny.
The cash pledge spreading across retailers is the latest in a series of moves to protect payment choice in Britain, working alongside the Community Access to Cash project—launched early this year by Which?—and the Government’s amendment to the Financial Services Bill enabling people to withdraw money from participating retailers without the requirement of a purchase.
Technology is changing the financial world at an exponential pace. Amid all this, what is clear is the need to protect access to cash for those who rely on it.