A busy Beech Road

On June 21 2014, a street of independent shops in Manchester took part in a social experiment to go cashless for 24 hours.

The experiment was to test consumer and business reaction to the point in the not too distant future when paper money becomes redundant.

The story about Beech Road becoming the UK’s first cashless street became a national talking point, with Sky News reporting from the road all day and national and regional press picking up on the story, such as The Guardian, The Sunday Times and Manchester Evening News. The debate continued on the airwaves as Radio 4’s You and Yours reported the activity and there were discussions on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Manchester.

On a gorgeous summer Saturday, the road was packed with shoppers well into the evening and the retailers that line the road reported brisk business – with card payments being top of the agenda.

Jon Charles, owner of bar/restaurant The Laundrette, says: “We like cards. It works for us because people spend more money. We don’t have to store masses of cash on site, I don’t have to take the money down to the bank every Monday. It’s cleaner, it saves me time and effort and is also a lot safer.”
Pauline Thompson, who runs Hurricane gift shop, says: “We do about 85% card payments and it’s growing each year. I don’t even carry cash myself any more.”

Shoppers on the street on cashless day were quizzed about their changing spending habits. The results were illuminating.

  • 60% of shoppers have left a shop in the past because they were unable to make a purchase by card
  • 53% would shop local more often if they knew they could pay by card everywhere
  • 2.5 – the average number of times those shoppers polled use their cards each day
  • £19 – the average amount of cash those shoppers polled had in their wallets or purses
  • 43% believe we are ready for a cashless society

Mark Latham, product and innovation director of Handepay, says: “We never expected that we would discover we’re ready to give up cash just yet, but we’re delighted so many independent businesses took the opportunity to engage their customers about how they like to spend.

“The future for the local high street is in making it as easy as possible for customers to shop there – we’re carrying less cash in our pockets than ever before, yet more than half of small businesses still don’t take card payments. That’s what the cashless street was all about.”

Handepay

The experiment is the idea of card payment provider Handepay, which supplies more than 26,000 businesses across the country with card payment terminals.

Handepay believe that the fortune of many independent stores could be transformed if they listened to their customers and offered alternative ways to pay.

Watch Sky News report from the Cashless Street.