Waitrose has become the UK’s first major supermarket brand to operate a cashless store.

Located in entertainment company Sky’s new flagship head office in London, the 1,400 square foot space is the second smallest store in the retailer’s portfolio and will cater to more than 3,500 Sky staff members.

The store is completely cashless, with customers only able to pay by card or through a mobile device at one of five self-service checkouts.

In a statement, Waitrose director, convenience, Jackie Wharton, says the decision to remove cash payments was a response to how customers wanted to shop in the workplace setting.

“Our convenience model is now more flexible than ever, especially as payment methods and ranges continue to evolve, so we’ll look forward to exploring other opportunities like this in the future.”

The retailer met with groups of Sky employees to determine what they would like to see in their new store, resulting in a focus on evening meals and food-to-go, along with travel accessories and a mini health and beauty range for those needing to travel at late notice.

Cashless retail in Australia

Although no supermarkets in Australia have gone cashless, it might not be long before they do as Australian consumers are increasingly ditching the notes and coins in favour of other payment methods.

According to the most recent consumer payments study from the Reserve Bank of Australia the use of cash has fallen sharply, with the number of cash transactions plunging by more than a third between 2007 and 2013.

The study found that debit and credit cards are the most frequently used substitutes for cash, reflecting factors including the growth of ecommerce and the adoption of contactless card technology, which reduces time at the point of sale.

The tech

Along with cards (including the ‘tap and go’ method that is becoming increasingly popular), there are other forms of cashless payment consumers are adopting. Digital wallets like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay let consumers pay using their smartphones, eliminating the need to even carry a credit or debit card.

There are also innovations like the partnership between reusable coffee cup company, Frank Green, and CafePay, which helps customers purchase their morning latte as quickly and efficiently as possible. The cashless payment system allows thirsty café patrons to simply scan their cup over the CafePay reader to pay, eliminating the need for cash or cards.

Looking to the future, another option is paying using something that is certain to be unique to you: your biometric data, like a person’s fingerprints, eyes, face or voice.

Pros and cons

For both retailers and their customers, going cashless can be a real time saver. Having no cash on site means no trips to the bank; no hours spent counting the till; and less opportunity for theft, which in some cases can mean a reduction in insurance premiums.

However, cashless payment has its own issues. Fraud, rejected payments, what to do if your smartphone dies and you need buy your coffee with it…These are all potential problems that need to be addressed before we give up cash for good.