Un­ex­pected item in the bag­ging area for cor­ner shops

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Katie Mor­ley CON­SUMER AF­FAIRS EDITOR

POP­PING into the cor­ner shop for a pint of milk and a chat with the shop­keeper has for years formed an in­te­gral part of peo­ple’s daily rou­tines.

But the rise of pay­ments tech­nol­ogy could soon make it a thing of the past, a re­port warned yes­ter­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­a­tion of Con­ve­nience Stores (ACS), which rep­re­sents cor­ner shops, thou­sands are start­ing to sack staff and re­place their tra­di­tional per­sonal con­tact with self-ser­vice check­outs. Shop­keep­ers are blam­ing the move on their in­creas­ing over­heads, which are forc­ing them to re­place staff with au­to­matic till sys­tems, they say.

In­dus­try fig­ures for March to May show one in five con­ve­nience re­tail­ers in­vested in up­grad­ing their stores, with a to­tal of £40mil­lion spent. One in four stores that made such in­vest­ments have made im­prove­ments to till sys­tems with one in five cut­ting staff hours, ac­cord­ing to re­search car­ried out by ACS. The de­ci­sion to cut staff hours co­in­cides with the liv­ing wage in­creas­ing to £7.50 an hour in April. It also fol­lows the lead set by su­per­mar­ket chains, where self-ser­vice tills are now com­mon­place and there is of­ten no ne­ces­sity to speak to an­other hu­man be­ing dur­ing a shop­ping trip.

It comes af­ter a Daily Tele­graph re­port re­vealed last week that Visa is plan­ning to strike cash­less agree­ments with shops and restau­rants that will see them of­fered lump sums worth thou­sands of pounds and free con­tact­less tech­nol­ogy up­grades. In re­turn they must agree to ban cus­tomers from pay­ing with cash and en­sure that items are bought us­ing a debit or credit card or dig­i­tal pay­ment like Ap­ple Pay.

But con­sumer groups warned Visa’s war on cash threat­ened to dis­ad­van­tage el­derly and vul­ner­a­ble con­sumers who still rely on cash and cheques.

It is also thought that self-ser­vice tills could neg­a­tively im­pact the lives of el­derly and lonely peo­ple, as it would de­prive them of what may be the only hu­man in­ter­ac­tion they get all day.

James Low­man, the ACS chief ex­ec­u­tive, said: “Many re­tail­ers now have to strike a dif­fi­cult bal­ance be­tween us­ing tech­nol­ogy in their busi­ness to make their stores more ef­fi­cient, and re­tain­ing the per­sonal touch that the sec­tor has been tra­di­tion­ally known for.

“These de­ci­sions will have to be made on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis across stores, but with em­ploy­ment costs con­tin­u­ing to rise we ex­pect more stores to look for ef­fi­cien­cies like these in the near fu­ture.”

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