Keep the change: Retailers sign up to ‘cash-friendly’ pledge launched by Which?

·4 min read

Major retailers have signed up to a cash acceptance pledge, helping to ensure that customers who want to pay in coins and banknotes will not be excluded by the transition to digital payments, Which? has said.

Aldi, Asda, Co-op, John Lewis, LloydsPharmacy and Waitrose have made the public commitment to keep accepting cash in their stores.

Together, the supermarkets are responsible for nearly 4,500 stores in the UK, and have a combined grocery market share of more than 30%.

LloydsPharmacy has committed to continue to accept cash across its 1,400 UK branches, and John Lewis has agreed to do the same across its stores nationwide.

Which? is inviting all retailers, large and small, to sign the pledge.

It said the scheme has also been backed by retail associations, with the British Retail Consortium, Association of Convenience Stores and the British Independent Retailers Association encouraging members to commit.

The Federation of Small Businesses is also promoting the scheme to members and the Bank of England also supports the introduction of the pledge, Which? said.

One of the small retailers signed up to the pledge is the Lodge Cottage Farm Shop in Crockey Hill, York.

Store owner Alison Owens said: “As a small local business we think it’s important not to exclude anyone, and we would never refuse anyone trying to pay with cash.

“A lot of our elderly customers rely on cash and people are often telling me that other stores will now only take card payments. We are a small farm shop that has served the local community for 10 years and will continue to accept cash for people buying our goods.”

Which? research found around a third (34%) of consumers reported being unable to pay with cash at least once when trying to buy something since coronavirus restrictions were first introduced.

Now that restrictions are gradually lifting, Which? said it wants to ensure that the 10 million consumers who are not ready or able to give up cash are not left in a position where businesses are permanently refusing cash.

The pledge was launched as Which? was hosting a summit on the future of cash on Thursday.

The Government has previously said it will legislate to protect cash.

Anabel Hoult, CEO of Which? said: “Our cash-friendly pledge will reassure consumers who rely on cash that they won’t be left behind as we make the transition to digital payments.

“We’re asking retailers to sign up to the pledge because the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the decline of cash usage – threatening the whole infrastructure that ensures millions of people who aren’t yet ready to make the switch to digital payments can access and spend their own money.

“The Government announced it would legislate to protect access to cash more than a year ago. Now it must set out when this will be introduced and explain its long-term plan to protect cash for as long as people need it.”

Which? highlighted the case of Steve Pointer, who has a severe visual impairment which means he finds it difficult to pay by card when shopping.

He has been refused service when trying to pay with cash several times in the past year.

Mr Pointer said: “Having to leave a shop because I can’t pay with cash can be quite distressing, because I’ve got a legitimate form of payment but it’s just not accepted, and I have to leave the shop empty-handed.”

He added: “A shop displaying a sign saying that it is cash friendly would give me confidence that I could go in and buy what I needed without any hassle.”

And Brenda Skan uses cash to budget.

She said: “During the pandemic a lot of shops have wanted payment by card.

“I am on a fixed income and I have found it almost impossible to keep within my budget. I’m pleased that there is now something in place that tells me which shops will make it easy to pay with cash.”

John Howells, CEO of ATM network Link, said: “We need industry, consumer and business groups and Government to continue to work together to create a long-term solution.”

Natalie Ceeney, chair of the Community Access to Cash Pilots initiative, said: “We never want to be in a situation where people could not buy basic food or medicine because a shop stopped accepting cash.”

Peter McNamara, CEO of ATM operator NoteMachine, said: “We’ve seen cash withdrawals soar in line with footfall as lockdowns have lifted, showing that there is clearly still enormous demand for cash amongst many consumers.

“When people do take out cash, we know they tend to spend it in the local area, so ensuring cash is protected is crucial to the recovery of local economies and local businesses.”

Marc Terry, international managing director at cash machine provider Cardtronics, said: “Cardtronics has taken similar steps with a campaign to encourage local retailers to show their support for cash by placing our ‘cash welcome here’ stickers in their stores. The response has been tremendous.”