Christmas queues keep till from ringing

RBS WorldPay – the company who commissioned the research – is encouraging retailers to consider queues busting measures, including the adoption of contactless payment technology which allows cardholders to pay in less than a second by simply tapping or waving contactless-enabled bank cards across a contactless payment reader.
Contactless technology could help cut Christmas queues which are set to increase by an average two minutes in the run up to Christmas, with customers being kept waiting an average six minutes, according to new figures released today.  Despite a third (30%) of retailers worrying that long queues will dissuade customers from even entering their store, one in ten retailers admit their average Christmas queues will be ten minutes long, more than twice as long as the average four minute, 22 second queue at other busy times of the year.
An increase in queue lengths could be interpreted as a sign of growing economic prosperity. However, closer analysis shows it’s more likely that customers are kept waiting due to staff not being in a position to take on as many staff as they would like –  two thirds of retailers (65%) say they won’t take on more staff this Christmas.
A shortage of staff is also increasing worries for those business owners who are less able to leave their premises to cash takings, with one in six admitting they will leave more cash on their premises during busy festive trading hours. To compound a risk of festive financial loss, the study also shows the average face to face retailer already loses £635 each year due to incorrect change being handed out by busy staff.
To improve customer service, reduce the amount of cash left on premises and reduce the negative impact of snaking queues, RBS WorldPay is encouraging its customers to consider payment options that are secure and can speed up transaction times, without the need for significant financial investment.
Adopting increasingly popular ‘contactless’ payment methods is one such solution – one financial benefit of accepting ‘contactless’ card payments is that the associated transaction fees tend to be significantly lower so taking card payments for small value items such as newspapers and confectionary becomes viable, as Matt Rowsell, Head of Business Development at RBS WorldPay, explains:
“Christmas 2009 comes at the end of another tough year for nearly all retailers.  Nobody can afford to let critical custom slip through the festive net as a result of customers being discouraged by snaking queues. The stakes are also too high to leave Christmas cash on the premises which is why we are encouraging our retailers to consider new technology, like contactless payments for lower value transactions that can help speed up transactions and reduce cash taken over the counter. Our priority is the same as our customers – we want to keep those tills ringing during Christmas and beyond, and to keep takings in the hands of business owners.”
With contactless technology proven to speed up transaction times, the technology will also appeal to over a third (35%) of retailers who say that angry customers are among the top festive stresses. The amount of time that Christmas customers spend counting or checking their cash (21%) is also cited as four times more frustrating for retailers than increased theft by staff.
Other statistics include:

  • 30% of retailers say that they worry that the large queues in their stores at Christmas put people off coming into their shops
  • 21% of retailers get frustrated by how long it takes customers to count their cash
  • 15% will leave more cash on their premises at Christmas
  • 35% of retailers say angry customers are a major frustration at Christmas
  • 63% say that the queues in their stores at Christmas last between five and ten minutes
  • 11% of retailers say Christmas queues last longer than ten minutes
  • At other times of the year, only 2% of retailers say their queues last longer than ten minutes
  • 75% of retailers won’t take any measures to combat queues at Christmas
  • 65% say they won’t be hiring additional staff during the festive period

Retailers have said the following will feature at the top of their Christmas trading wish list:
1) Faster transaction times
2) Shorter queues
3) A utilities holiday
4) Extended supplier payment terms
5) Easier access to cash that is stuck in the payment cycle
Liverpool became the UK’s latest ‘contactless’ city earlier this year, with retailers switching to the new technology that allows secure and fast payments at the tap of a card. Ideal for any payment of £10 or less, the new contactless technology is already reducing the city’s queues and the need for its shoppers to enter a PIN or fumble for cash, following its adoption by retailers including Timpson, and Max Spielmann. It’s also coming soon to Boots.