Cash accounts for 20% of retail sales revenue, says BIRA survey

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

The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), which works with over 6,000 independent businesses of all sizes across the UK, ran the survey which will be unveiled at the UK Finance’s Cash Policy Committee meeting on September 26, which demonstrates cash is far from obsolete.

The survey was carried out throughout August 2023 and included input from organisations including the Federation of Independent Retailers, Digital Entertainment & Retail Association, Association of Cycle Traders and other members of the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC).

The survey, which was completed by over 650 independent retailers nationwide found the vast majority continue accepting coins and banknotes, despite the rise of cards and digital payments. Cash still accounts for over 20% of sales revenue for 65% of merchants polled.

When setting prices, 37% factor in the need to avoid copper coins, showing retailers still cater to cash-preferring customers. However, securing change is an issue, with 87% needing to acquire coins/notes from bank branches – branches that continue to close 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,” he added.

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 signals most do not plan to go cashless in the near future, despite the challenges accepting cash presents.

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