Cash is still king for UK's independent retailers

Written by: Rachel Miller

Date: 2 October 2023

A woman pays for her coffee with cash

A recent survey of retailers across the UK has found that cash remains a crucial payment method that keeps tills ringing for independent shops and small businesses.

The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) has conducted a survey of retailers with input from organisations including the Federation of Independent Retailers, the Digital Entertainment and Retail Association, the Association of Cycle Traders and members of the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC).

The poll, which was completed by over 650 independent UK retailers, has found that the vast majority of shops still accept coins and banknotes, despite the rise of cards and digital payments. Cash accounts for over 20% of sales revenue for 65% of the merchants polled.

Retailers struggle as bank branches close

When setting prices, 37% of retailers say they factor in the need to avoid copper coins, suggesting that retailers still cater to customers that prefer cash. However, securing change is an issue, with 87% needing to acquire coins and notes from bank branches - which are closing at an alarming rate.

Andrew Goodacre, ceo of Bira, said: "While new payment technologies are growing, this survey highlights that the majority of independents still rely on cash to serve their customers. As bank branches and ATMs close, safeguarding access to cash is vitally important. We need the financial industry to commit to making access to cash readily available, and not to rely on retailers offering cash back as the alternative. It's important that cash accessibility and payment choice is protected for all. Not every customer is ready or able to pay by card - retailers serve entire communities, not just those embracing digital."

The survey shows that 38% of retailers said they would only stop accepting cash if there was a closing down of a bank branch or Post Office in their area. This suggests that most do not plan to go cashless in the near future, despite the challenges they face.

Gen Z prefer digital payment methods

However, a recent poll of 1,000 Gen Z Brits, conducted by digital identity security specialists, ID Crypt Global, highlights the generational divide when it comes to payment methods. Its findings show that the under-25s rarely use cash and prefer to use digital wallets rather than bank cards:

  • 84% of those polled say they "never" or only "occasionally" use cash;
  • Just 16% say they pay with cash "often" or "always";
  • Almost 60% only "occasionally" or "never" use bank cards;
  • 74% use a digital wallet, such as that found on a smartphone, to make payments and purchases every week.

In addition, the research shows that 94% of Gen Z Brits use their digital ID to prove their identity. Despite this, young people are worried about the security of their digital identities and payments, with 85% saying they are concerned about who has access to the information stored within their digital ID.

Written by Rachel Miller.

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