According to The Daily Telegraph, Boots is going to stop accepting cheques as they now account for only 2 in every 1,000 transactions. For our overseas readers, I should point out that Boots is a British institution, a high-street pharacy-cum-drugstore. I’m not sure, but I think the key statistic is that two-thirds of the UK population visit a branch of Boots every month. So when they say that cheques are history, others will surely follow (Shell petrol stations no longer take cheques either, so it’s not just Boots). That I can understand. The only people I write cheques to are the kids schools, for trips and dinner money and that sort of thing (why they can’t get a Paypal account I’ve no idea) and our gardener.
But why do retailers think that cash is cheaper? I wonder about these figures: it must cost Boots more than zero to count, bag, deposit, guard, store and transport cash. Perhaps it’s a function of size: the SME’s quoted in the Alliance & Leicester survey may regard administration and bookkeeping an unnecessary overhead when applied to cash and may perhaps sometimes skimp on the record-keeping, whereas Boots do not.
There’s another point made in the survey: nearly a third of retailers say that if customers stopped making cash payments it would have a negative effect on their business, with a surprising 49,000 fearing they would be forced to close down. Alliance & Leicester reckon that the retail sector takes in £8 billion in cash every month, calling it the “lifeblood of the industry”. Meanwhile, CAP Gemeni’s World Payments Report poses some interesting questions about SEPA, including “Since cash usage is not really decreasing in Europe, and knowing that the cost of cash is very high for society, how can public authorities and banks reduce the public’s reliance on cash?”. Hhmmm… good question. Any suggestions?