A simple Google search for the term “cashless society” will come up with quite a few results, which might give the impression that we are on the cusp of some sort of global megatrend regarding retail cash management—one wherein cash and currency will become obsolete. This is likely to occur sooner rather than later, or at least at some point during our lifetimes. A lot of the noise is coming from overseas—Northern Europe and Scandinavia, and Australia, in particular.
For example, take a look at this story from LP Magazine in 2016: “Electronic Payments Becoming the Norm in Sweden.” In 2014, the legal scholar Cass Sunstein penned an op-ed advocating for a cashless society in order to reduce street crime. Some pundits in Australia even predict that country will be “cash free” by 2022.
Despite the ballyhoo, cash isn’t going to disappear from the retail industry anytime soon. This is especially true when it comes to lower-value retail transactions in the United States. While transactions that take place on a mobile platform using a smartphone are becoming ubiquitous, those transactions tend to replace credit and debit cards, rather than becoming a substitute for cash.
The reality is that cash (and in some situations, even paper checks) still remain popular payment choices for many consumers. According to a recent research report from CreditCards.com, cash is preferred by 63 percent of consumers with incomes under $50,000, a group that makes up over 70 percent of the population in the United States.
As loss prevention professionals in retail businesses that serve this demographic en masse (i.e. QSR, c-store, big box, etc.) know all too well, cash is still a prominent form of payment. LP professionals know this mainly because they’re the ones most accountable for managing the risk around the store’s cash handling operations. Not only are they faced with the challenges surrounding securing high volumes of cash on a daily basis, but this must be accomplished while complying with various retail cash management restrictions and reporting requirements.
To make things extra interesting, the expenses associated with processing and securing currency can be significant, especially if the volumes of cash usage fall. While in some cases these responsibilities may not fall directly under the purview of loss prevention, it would behoove LP professionals to look for ways to minimize all costs associated with retail cash management.
Many retail organizations that process cash transactions are looking at and piloting automated solutions that aim to reduce the risks, expenses and resource costs that come with managing currency.
For a location that handles less than $5,000 in daily cash deposits, consider a “smart safe” solution. Most LP professionals are familiar with smart safes, as they have been used in retail for at least 20 years. A smart safe is a retail cash management system that counts, validates and secures currency; supports end-to-end remote cash deposit; provides a deposit receipt at the end of every business day and communicates the cash totals to the retailers’ bank, which then provides provisional credit for the deposits while the cash remains inside the safe, awaiting pickup from the armored carrier service.
Cash Recycler Solutions
When researching the technology for cash handling, “right-sizing” the solution is a key success factor in retail cash management and optimization. For example, a large chain retail organization may require a setup that is fully scalable for all locations. This is where cash recycler solutions (considered by some to be the next evolution in cash handling best practices) come into play. “Cash recycler” describes a solution suite built around the smart safe device that allows retailers to deposit coins, as well as notes, and make withdrawals for change (notes and coins). It also recycles the smaller bills and coins, thereby reducing the need for change orders.
By automatically counting bills and coins and transmitting their value to the company’s bank account before the cash has been physically moved, the solution eliminates the traditional, labor-intensive processing. This effectively turns the cash on location into “bank-owned cash” and enables the retailer to optimize working capital management. With large retail chains, this scales upwards; as a result, the larger the retail operation, the more valuable the solution becomes. Consider the value of all the cash “trapped” at any one time at each one of a chain’s many hundreds (or thousands) of store locations.
Cash recyclers are also effective at reducing risk of theft and minimizing costs associated with labor-intensive cash-handling tasks, including armored carrier services. They collect and store a treasure trove of data around cash requirements, which retailers can harvest and use for operational efficiencies, among other features.
Cash recyclers and smart safes offer utility and benefits that span several top retail functions beyond loss prevention, including treasury, IT, human resources and operations. Ultimately, automated cash handling solutions are valuable tools for retail loss prevention professionals looking to find increased transparency and control over their cash handling and working capital.
This post was originally published in 2016 and was updated June 29, 2017.