In June 2014, Handepay became headline news when we created the UK’s first ever cashless street.
We chose a normal shopping street in Manchester, packed full of independent traders, and persuaded them to take part in our social experiment to test attitudes to cash and plastic and a future cashless society.
The way we all shop - and spend - is changing as we head towards a totally cashless economy.
From the bakery to the pet shop, the newsagents to the pubs and restaurants, the traders of Beech Road in Manchester’s Chorlton suburb got on board and agreed for one Saturday to only accept card payments.
At a time when half of independent retailers did not have the facilities to accept card payments, the idea of our experiment was to test consumer and business reaction to the point in the not too distant future when paper money would become redundant.
In the run up to the event, we raised awareness with the local community to ensure a strong turnout of curious shoppers on the day.
Not surprisingly, such a unique event captured the imagination of the media, too - on that sunny Saturday, Handepay was the subject of a full page feature in The Guardian, and we had Sky News filming all day. Radio 4, The Sunday Times, BBC local radio, The Manchester Evening News and many more were keen to find out what was going on.
In preparation for this, we had linked with independent retail expert David Edmundson Bird to provide commentary for the media that was separate from Handepay. Our spokesperson, director Mark Latham, also did his fair share of interviews!
Speaking about the event, David Edmundson-Bird, from Manchester Metropolitan University said: “We saw how quickly cheque payment has died out. With the rise of
cashless payments, it’s feasible that cash could go the same way.”
A video produced on the day by former BBC journalist Andy Johnston was hosted on YouTube and Handepay’s social channels. We also ran a live blog and social media feed to capture the buzz of such a unique occasion.
Journalists mingled with shoppers and families to create a unique atmosphere on the suburban road as our experiment got underway and debit and credit cards were splashed in all the stores on the street. And the results? The retailers all reported brisk business, with turnover on the day up by a reported 22 per cent.
Shoppers on the street were quizzed about their changing spending habits - and the convenience of paying by debit or credit card.
- 60 per cent of shoppers said that they had left a shop in the past because they were unable to make a purchase by card
- 53 per cent would shop local more often if they knew they could pay by card everywhere
- 5 – the average number of times those shoppers polled used their cards each day
The after-effects were far reaching - from the businesses on Manchester’s Beech Road who adopted card payments after taking part in our experiment, to the retailers nationwide who saw or read about our activity and immediately signed up to have a card payment machine in their business. It’s fair to say that Handepay got the whole country talking about card vs cash.
We were incredibly proud to have staged such an event and placed the subject of a cashless society at the forefront of the country’s talking points.
Five years later, it’s amazing to see how far the country has come in the adoption of card payments, contactless and device payments, such as Apple Pay. We are well past the tipping point of card vs cash and our experiment most likely wouldn’t make the same headlines nowadays as cards are so commonplace.
However, we like to think we’ve played our part in the journey of bringing the UK closer to that cashless future...