By Liz Hamson
Top independent retailers think utility payment terminals are more trouble than they are worth ­ but admit their business would suffer if they got rid of them.
An e-mail poll of The Grocer's Reader Panel of the Top 50 privately owned grocers found 88% had terminals. However, a third said they made no profit at all from them, and the rest all said profits were very small.
Only 18% said they had got rid of any terminals and 82% said they would not consider getting rid of them. With the independent sector voicing growing calls for a better deal on utilities (The Grocer, March 29, p5) the poll revealed the depth of retailer discontent.
The vast majority complained they hardly make any money ­ just 0.5% commission and 13p cap on individual transactions. Yet if they don't have the terminals, customers do not think they are getting good service.
One said: "We carry them as a service. I would love to throw the lot out. They are dynamite from a security angle and we have to rigorously scan the reports for fiddles. The overheads are far more than the commission paid."
Another said: "Several staff have been caught paying bills or topping up mobiles without paying the company."
However, when the paypoint was removed, "it had a definite effect on sales," he said. Customers were "disappointed" they could no longer pay their bills locally. "Store sales declined and footfall was down."
As another put it: "There are many local competitors who would take the terminal and get your traffic."
There were also concerns about the lack of choice over provider. One retailer that had recently been forced to change its service provider said: "There was only one alternative and the terms were not as favourable."
Reader Panel: The Grocer Top 50 retailers
>>Survey reveals strong feelings over utility payment terminals

1 Do you have utility payment terminals in your stores?
Yes: 88%
No: 12%

2 Do you make a profit from them?
Yes: 66%
No: 34%

3 Have you had them but got rid of them?
Yes: 18%
No: 82%

4 Are you considering getting rid of them?
Yes: 18%
No: 82%

Source: email poll

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