In 2014, Handepay partnered with one independent high street in South Manchester to take part in a social experiment to determine attitudes towards going cash free for the day.
Now, amid a global pandemic, we went back to Beech Road in Chorlton to ask the independent shops, bars and cafes how much cash they were taking now and how much the situation has changed.
Luxury grocer and wine merchant Epicerie Ludo is run by Ludovic Piot and his partner Darran.They have been open throughout lockdown. Ludo says: “We’ve been pushing our customers to pay using contactless. We haven't stopped people paying by cash, but far less people are offering it. I think the trend of far less cash and more card payments will continue, but there will always be a few who prefer to make very small purchases with cash. Hopefully this will become less and less as card payments are much easier to manage when it comes to the accounts.”
Growler and Prowler is a recent addition to Beech Road and has been trading for just over a year. Owner Gary Lenaghan has been trading throughout lockdown, providing essential supplies to pet owners. He adds “95% are paying by card, we are telling people that we only take cash as a last resort and most are fine with it. I’m planning on going cashless soon.”
Llewellyn Thomas Wood, owner of beauty and wellbeing salon Buddha Beauty, learnt the devastating news this week that he will not be able to reopen as hoped on July 4th. He explains: “For us going cash free is about keeping our staff and our customers safe. We have advised our customers that we will be cash free when we reopen again.”
Card and gift shop No 68 was one of the first stores to reopen on the road on June 15th with a number of increased safety measures, including screening of the counter. “I ask everyone to pay by card, maybe one customer a day at most wants to pay in cash, I accept it as I can’t afford to upset customers or lose a sale.”
Fran Stunt of Franny and Filer, a contemporary handmade jewellery and craft gallery company, has been open for a week. She shared her initial experiences: “We’re still expecting to take both cash and card. I think there might be more people using card now, but not a huge difference. People tend to ask if it’s ok to take cash now. It’s only been a week though so we’ll have a better idea as times goes on.”
Ann Malone of The Lead Station, one of the longest established restaurants on Beech Road, is looking forward to welcoming customers back from July 4th. She said: “I think everyone has made a gradual move to paying by card anyway during lockdown. We will promote contactless but we won’t refuse cash.”
Oliver Goldring of Beech Road Tap House pivoted his business during lockdown. Originally a bar, he closed and then reopened as an off licence, specialising in takeaway beer. Oliver said: “We moved to card only since reopening, it’s been fine, no complaints from customers and it’s much easier for us.”
Increasingly, Handepay data suggests that customers expect to be able to use their card to pay for both large or small purchases. In 2016, cards overtook cash as our favourite way to pay. Now, as we move out of lockdown and our shops and bars reopen, Handepay predicts the volume of card transactions will increase, and that more traders will insist on card only transactions.
There’s a lot traders can and should do to help customers feel comfortable in making purchases on cash or card, from wiping over hand-held terminals between each customer interaction to offering hand sanitizer at point of purchase so that staff can interact with customer payments safely.
There will always be a small proportion of people who want to pay by cash, but the long term future of cash is looking increasingly bleak as both shoppers and traders can see the benefit of card transactions over handling coins.