Anne Bruce Independent retailers could lose thousands of pounds of income as the mobile phone networks and Lottery operator Camelot prepare to deliver products through cash machines. Camelot is to start feasibility studies to see if ATMs will support sales of Lottery tickets, threatening retailers' 5% commission on tickets, and impulse sales. And mobile networks are getting ready to sell airtime through cashpoint machines, which will again take away impulse sales and retailers' margins on top-up sales, which have already dropped from 16% in 1999 to as low as 4% now. Vodafone and Moneybox will pioneer the mechanism through Moneybox's Link ATM network. Many Moneybox ATMs are in c-stores, but commission on sales through the ATM will be much lower than current levels. A Link spokesman said: "We are reasonably close to signing up other mobile networks and extending the service through the big banks.ATMs could eventually be used for all sorts of other applications. In Portugal you can pay your taxes through the cashpoint." He said topping up airtime through an ATM would only take fractionally longer than making a cash withdrawal because the only additional information required was a mobile phone number. Stephen Brewer, md of Vodafone sales and distribution, said: "This development fully supports Vodafone's aim to have 50% of top-ups performed electronically by the end of 2003." Spar retail services controller Barry Wallis said sales of e-phone top-up and paper vouchers were worth #100m a year to Spar, up to #40,000 per store. He said: "We are in discussions with the mobile phone top-up providers. This could cut out the c-store, but we hope customers will prefer to come instore, rather than stand in the rain using an ATM." And Stephen Thompson, marketing director of Scottish c-store chain Morning Noon & Night, said: "Vouchers and e-top up are worth between #500 and #2,000 per store per week. The convenience sector built up the whole top-up market, and now if it is moved out of convenience and on to ATMs we will lose out on sales and lose customers through the door." >>page 30, Opinion {{NEWS }}