EAT - Are you polymer ready?
Up and down the country businesses are preparing for the roll-out of polymer notes. Whether a sole-trader or a large super-store, getting ready for the new notes is extremely important for businesses relying on fast accurate and trouble-free cash-counting.
Following the introduction of polymer notes in more than 24 countries around the world, the Bank of England will start its introduction of polymer notes with the issue of a new £5 note in September. Scotland introduced its first polymer notes with the launch of new RBS and Clydesdale Bank £5 note in 2015.
The EAT chain of cafes, which has over 118 outlets across the UK, is one such business that has been preparing for the polymer notes. Martin Harris of EAT explains what it’s meant for them and offers some advice to other retailers preparing for the new notes.
What implications did the switch to polymer have on your business?
Although 60% of our revenue now comes from card payments the cafe sector in general is still handling a large number of cash transactions so it is going to affect every one of our stores directly. Purchases with us are usually lower in value and are a very convenient way for customers to get change meaning that we are often paid with higher value notes and dispense a lot of £5 notes and £1 coins as change. Therefore with the first polymer note being the £5, for a lot of people their first contact with polymer could be with change given by us. Our service needs to be fast and the last thing we want is lots of customers stopping to admire or query the new notes thus slowing the queue times.
For us the two main things are updating our Cashmaster cash-counting machines and training our staff. However, as we use digital menu displays in our shops which are also used to advertise and promote specific products we are planning to display a message from a week before the introduction of each note to "train" our customers as well.
Was beginning the process early important to you? What did you have to do?
The general message from the sector was one of "If the world doesn't end with the introduction of polymer notes it sure will with the new £1 coin". Well we contacted Cashmaster who reassured us that, whilst there were some big changes coming, it was all relatively straight forward. 50% of our units could be upgraded using an SD card taking just a couple of minutes for each unit. Our older machines, which were still going strong after years of use, needed to be replaced, simply because they were too old to upgrade the software - testament to the durability of Cashmaster's product.
Our Financial Year runs July to June so leaving the upgrade process to be budgeted in the July 2016-June 2017 financial year would have been too late, so with the cost of the new units budgeted for Spring 2016 we were ready to start early.
What advice would you give to other retailers?
Start working on this as soon as possible. We are lucky in that we don't have vending and self-service tills to worry about but any upgrade is still time consuming. Now that the Bank of England have just issued the latest information and training materials about the introduction of the new fiver, we guess that a lot of people are going to start asking lots of questions…businesses need to start planning for the changes and the first new notes on September 13th 2016.
One of the benefits of the new notes is reduced opportunity for counterfeit…how much is that in issue in your business?
The fact that it is not unusual to make a small value purchase with a large note in our units means that we are very susceptible to counterfeit currency and whilst we have a number of procedures and checks in place to counter this, including the use of Cashmaster's Delta note checkers, we are really looking forward to the break that the introduction of the polymer notes will undoubtedly give us. Our biggest wish of course would have been that the Bank of England started with the £50 note and worked down rather than the fiver up - alas that is not to be.
Why did you choose to work with Cashmaster?
We often joke that you could drive a tank over a Cashmaster unit and it would still work ok afterwards - well that is probably an exaggeration but it pretty much sums up our view of the Cashmaster product. Most of our back-of- house office areas are quite small and our Cashmaster devices take quite a battering with things dropped, piled up or spilled on them. The fact that we are only having to replace 50% of the Cashmaster counting machines, because we’ve had them working in our units for so long, shows how robust they are and this in turn justifies our faith in the Cashmaster brand.
We get a great service and sensible honest advice from Cashmaster, their products are simple to use by our multi-national staff and offer the best cash-counting solution for our business.