Major Australian retailer Woolworths has abandoned a trial of cashless-only stores after fierce opposition from customers.
The trial began in July 2020 at 11 Woolworths Metro stores in Melbourne and Sydney, courting immediate controversy with hundreds vowing to boycott the chain if it persisted in refusing customers the right to pay in cash. Signs informing customers of the policy apologised ‘for any inconvenience’ and the chain was quick to issue a statement saying cash was still being accepted at all its regular-sized stores and most Metro locations.
Despite this rocky start, the trial was expanded to cover 14 stores, including locations in Brisbane. However, in the face of continued opposition to the move, the trial has now been ended.
We want Woolworths to be a place where everyone feels welcome… It’s become clear to us that not all customers have felt this way when shopping in our Woolworths Metro stores trialling card-only payments.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the stores that went cashless prevented homeless people from buying essentials, and customers taking their business elsewhere led to a decline in local foot traffic that was remarked on by nearby traders. ‘It was already very quiet due to the pandemic, but this made it even quieter,’ one observed.
Justin Nolan, Woolworths Metro General Manager, admitted ‘cash remains incredibly important’ to those who prefer not to use cashless options ‘for a whole range of reasons we didn’t fully appreciate.’
Most stores reverted to accepting cash immediately or shortly after the trial ended. Just one—in Sydney—took longer, and was once again open to cash purchasers from 10 March.
If you feel passionate about ensuring cash remains a payment option across Australia, you can click here to sign the 'Save Cash' petition on change.org, established by Australian cash campaigner Jason Bryce.