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Business broker warns of effect on high street if ‘cashless society’ is realised

Gareth Smyth, CEO of Hilton Smythe Group

Bolton-based business broker Hilton Smythe Business Sales is urging the Government to consider the impact on independent high street retailers if the UK becomes a cashless society, and to support the transition for cash-only businesses if these predictions are realised.

Following the recent Access to Cash Review, politicians including Nicky Morgan and Matt Warman, and money experts including Martin Lewis, have issued warnings on behalf of consumers, particularly older people and people living in rural areas.

The report suggests that cash could account for only 10% of all transactions within the next 15 years.
However, Gareth Smyth, CEO of Hilton Smythe Group, has issued a warning to the Government to consider the impact on small, independent high street shops.

Gareth said: “Many small, independent high street retailers, particularly ones such as butchers, laundrettes, greengrocers and takeaways, still deal in cash. If we moved to a cashless society, this would be devastating for them, as they would have to spend a great deal of money upgrading their systems, and this may be money they don’t have.

“Many of these businesses are passed through families and run by the owners up until their retirement. They may not be as tech-savvy as younger entrepreneurs and having to cope with a big technological shift in their last years of employment can be damaging to their mental health, on top of any financial implications.”

In 2018, the number of free to use cashpoints declined by, on average, 250 per month, and by the end of the year, the Office of National Statistics found that nearly 6,000 local bank branches had closed since the start of the decade.
Gareth added: “We must also consider how the business people who operate with cash-only or predominantly cash are impacted by the closures of branches and the removal of ATMs. They need to be able to deposit their money somewhere, and, if a customer arrives without cash, they need to be able to get some money out to pay for the services.

“If customers can’t use these retailers because there is nowhere convenient to go and get cash, they will go elsewhere, and this would be a huge shame. Local independent retailers are the lifeblood of the high street, and care should be taken to ensure we don’t lose them forever.

“If we do head towards a cashless society within the next 15 to 20 years, the Government has a duty to support these businesses that currently run on cash-only, to preserve the heritage they provide.”