Leisure without cash

Who remembers Mondex?  It was smart card conceived in 1993 byTim Jones and Graham Higgins of Natwest Bank and was designed to replace coins for small transactions.  The card could be loaded from bank accounts via ATMs and a key ring reader helped cardholders track their balance. 

The card never really took off and, with hindsight, it’s easy to see why.  The requirement to pre-load meant the only real advantage over coins was weight and, in any case, you still had to carry coins because not everywhere accepted Mondex.  So, it’s easy to see why cash survived this particular elimination attempt.

23 years on, and the battle for a cashless society should be long-won.  The vast majority of shops accept cards, you can get a cashless taxi and if you owe your friend a tenner you can send it via your phone.   Indeed, in some countries the battle really is won.  I recently went to Iceland and didn’t bother taking Krona.  Cards are used literally everywhere – even for the £2 payment to the cloakroom attendant in a bar.

However, in 2015 the Payments Council reported that private individuals in the UK were still using cash for 52% of their transactions, with only 26% being made by debit card.  So, it seems the UK is sticking with cash out of choice or habit rather than necessity.

That said, the trends suggest cash is slowly on its way out.  Of the consumers predominantly using cash, 40% are over 65.  Of the consumers rarely using cash, half are under 35.  However, we are still talking about many decades before we can even think about becoming genuinely cashless.

As leisure finance specialists, we quite naturally look to the pub for an example of how cash is heavily imbedded in British culture.  And, as always, it delivers …

Take this scenario:  You’re standing with a friend at the bar and he says “what are you having?” before opening his wallet and pulling out his debit card.  What is your reaction?  Mine is to say “let me pay – I’ve got cash.”   If we both offer payment the barman will invariably choose the cash … not because it’s easier (what could be easier than a contactless payment?) but because he knows the cultural rules.  In a traditional British pub, cash is king.  Indeed, the British pub has been the sanctuary of many traditions and cultural relics … so maybe it’s the right place for cash’s last stand.

However, this doesn’t mean the leisure industry as a whole is forever wedded to cash.  Indeed, parts of the leisure sector are taking positions at the forefront of the cashless world.  On 16st August thePropel Newsletterreported that the Euphorium Bakery founder is to launch a cashless modern carvery concept in Tooley Street, London.  The newsletter reports that the outlet, which will be calledCarvewill “serve high-protein carvepots, with fish, meat and vegetarian options hand-carved on customer-facing podiums … Diners can tap, grab and go in seconds courtesy of a one-step, one-price ordering and cashless payment system”.  The idea is to give time-poor London professionals great food and remove all the hassle of paying.  Going cashless in this sense is vital.

This perhaps illustrates the wide range of businesses you get in the leisure sector … and the importance of specialist lenders who can understand their varying needs.


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