Spar expecting contactless payment growth trend to continue

The UK contactless payment limit was increased from £20 to £30 this week, and one of the early retail adopters of the technology told Essential Retail that the move is part of a wider trend involving the continued growth of frictionless payments in the country.

Convenience group Spar was one of the first retailers in Britain to roll-out contactless technology across its store estate, and the group's UK retail payments controller Roy Ford explained that in July 2015 alone there were in excess of 550,000 contactless transactions made in its shops.

Detailing the growth in this form of payment, Ford said that in May 2014 Spar took 55,000 contactless transactions but within three months this had quadrupled. One year on this figure has grown ten times over, representing 15.5% of all Visa Debit card payments made in its stores.

This trend "will continue to grow as more contactless debit cards are issued, and Apple Pay and other mobile payments increase", he added.

Talking this week at an event held at Spar's new Eat 17 restaurant, bar and shop in Homerton, east London, the retailer's managing director Debbie Robinson said her company aims to be "a first mover" in much of what it does, and this was the case with offering Apple Pay as a transaction method in its stores.

Knowing Spar had the technology in place to cater for its mobile payments offering, which initially launched in the US in 2014, Apple approached Spar to become a UK launch partner earlier this summer – and the roll-out has reportedly been smooth across the store estate.

"Spar recognised the opportunity to be one of the first in its marketplace to deploy Apple Pay and it matches Spar's ambitions to be at the forefront of convenience retail," Ford noted.

"Spar is renowned for technology innovation particularly in card payment , previously we were among the first to deploy Chip & PIN, improving payment security for retailers and their customers. In the case of Apple Pay I saw the opportunity to be ahead of the competition and add value to the recently deployed estate of Verifone VX820 contactless payment terminals with minimal development."

Essential Retail was interested to know just how popular Apple Pay has been as a percentage of contactless payments, but at present they are not distinguishable.

"Apple Pay was designed to be simply deployed alongside existing contactless payment technology so the Verifone payment terminal software sees an Apple Pay transaction simply as a "contactless" transaction," said Ford.

"At this time we cannot distinguish an Apple Pay transaction from a normal contactless transaction. Spar and Verifone may look at being able to do so in the future, but Apple Pay and mobile payment are here to stay and costing the same as a standard contactless or any other debit card payment so there is no cost benefit to such a development at present."

What can be distinguished is that contactless transactions in their various guises continue to grow in popularity – the statistics from Visa and MasterCard highlight this trend – and Ford expects the rise in the limit for this method of payment will be useful to Spar's retailers, even though the company's average transaction value is covered by the previous £20 barrier.

It is perhaps for other retailers, including those in the fashion and supermarket industries, where the change will have most impact. And Visa Europe estimates the increase to £30 could affect approximately three million Visa transactions a day, for a total of over £70 million.

Dave Hobday, UK managing director of Worldpay, which is the merchant service provider for Spar and many other retailers in the UK, said: "With card sales on the high street bounding ahead, the case for moving to contactless has never been clearer.

"Businesses that don't make the move will be left in the dust and even risk driving loyal customers away."

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Visa Europe


Worldpay UK