Is cash forgotten or simply furloughed?
If, as the old saying goes, ‘cash is king’, businesses could be forgiven for believing that its crown may have lost a little of its lustre as a result of the Coronavirus.
However, although COVID-19, with all of its non-contact regulation, may have devalued the transactional currency, in part through confusion and mis-information, hard cash simply finds itself in a state of furlough rather than being forever forgotten, according to one of the world’s largest cash handling and management businesses.
Tellermate, which provides intelligent counting and security systems to some of the world’s best known retail, grocery and hospitality brands, has observed the global trends emanating from the pandemic, but is seeing growth in demand for its range of cash handling solutions with some businesses using the lockdown to prepare for the return of cash.
“There are so many different opinions about cash and how to handle it hygienically, but the same can be said for card payments and the cleaning of chip and pin machines in stores,” said Nathan Pennington, marketing manager for Tellermate, which has its UK and European headquarters in Newport, Gwent.
He argues that media headlines have not helped the position of cash.
“There was a story about cash, like other payment methods, needing to be treated carefully and hygienically, but the headlines simply implied that cash was somehow dirty.
“There has been the case of the lady sacked from a bakery for allowing customers to pay in cash,” said Nathan who was referring to the case of Megan Metcalfe, who worked at Birds Bakery in Derby for more than 40 years before being dismissed after admitting accepting cash from customers and using her own debit card to pay for items, making it seem like the transaction was done via card.
“It seems like cash is having to fight its own PR battle, but in the absence of clear advice we have been active in engagement with customers because the biggest thing you hear is about the complete confusion out there, ” he added.
“This is often about the science and conflicting information about how long the virus can live on different surfaces. Consequently, we have a landscape where some businesses are not taking cash while others are taking it and quarantining it for a certain amount of time before it goes into the cash handling process.
“The nuances of the different approaches are not cutting through to the media though. In the US, one national electrical retailer stopped accepting cash across its estate, and as a result of coverage, many other businesses simply followed suit. However, the reason the business made the decision was a pragmatic one based upon the fact that it could not get enough change in certain states rather than the business boycotting cash transactions on other grounds.”
“It’s clear from our engagement that there is a different mindset around cash: people are working from home or have been furloughed or lost their jobs, all coupled with the increase in online transactions.
“But there is still the issue around cash and inclusivity – the fact that in certain communities where banks have closed their doors and there is no ATM, people, particularly in a certain demographic need ready access to cash.”
Before lockdown, Tellermate attended the NRF event in the US and EuroShop in Germany, and in both scenarios interest was buoyant as businesses continue to recognise the important contribution that cash will continue to make.
“One large hospitality business has used the lockdown period to roll out our technology across its UK estate as they want to be fully ready to receive customers when they fully re-open. We have done the roll out in three phases – 500 at a time - as the individual units have started to open.
“Across our UK and Europe markets we have re-adjusted our sales forecast, but we are still seeing demand on a par with what it would have been both in terms of new business and existing customers having re-fits – it’s the same story in the US and this is a much bigger area.”
Tellermate, whose product range includes the count-by-weight technology that it pioneered as well as intelligent cash drawers and drop safes, has seen its market bounce back and is now looking to the future of greater integration and collaboration, including building stronger relationships with the cash in transit community. This is to provide end-to-end cash management integrity between the retail community and the banks in order to reduce discrepancies in terms of errors and theft.
This would be achieved through hardware and software solutions that feed into back office functions to provide cloud-based, real time management information to offer total transparency.
The systems also have the facility to provide provisional credit, allowing the retail customer access to funds before they are banked.
In a straight comparison with card transactions, the new technologies significantly reduce the cost of cash handling which provides a competitive edge for the older, paper-based currency.
“Although it appears difficult to quantify, it’s not all about trying to make cost reductions. In Europe and the US these time and cost savings allow our clients to redeploy staff into more customer-facing roles that add value and can increase sales through greater productivity, rather than take personnel out of the equation – they can spend more time engaging with customers and up-selling,” added Nathan.