The introduction of polymer notes next month means retailers will need to be prepared. Here’s how to ensure you’re right on the money
Next month will see the biggest change in UK banking since decimalisation. Polymer £5 notes will go into circulation on 13 September in England and 15 September in Scotland, followed by £10 notes in 2017 and £20 notes by 2020.
Having already proved a success in Australia, Canada and Romania, the new notes are said to be cleaner, longer lasting and much harder to counterfeit than current paper notes.
“They will be lighter and smaller, bringing them in line with international sizes and better at fitting in purses, wallets and cash registers,” says Ewan Ogilvie, managing director of European ATM provider YourCash Europe Ltd. “The new notes have a number of security features, including holograms and clear windows, which are likely to discourage counterfeit attempts. They will also be more durable: the Bank of England has advised a five-year lifecycle compared with 18 months with paper notes. And finally, they’re eco-friendly so at the end of the note’s life it can be recycled!”
The notes have not been without criticism, though, with payments consultancy CMS Payments Intelligence calculating that polymer banknotes will cost businesses £236m to implement, due to the costs of upgrading and replacing cash-handling machinery such as self-service machines and ATMs.
“It is absurd that the Bank of England would commission a project that costs the economy £236m upfront to save just £10m a year, and then offer no compensation to thousands of small businesses that will lose out from this whimsical decision,” claims chief executive officer Brendan Doyle.
However, all the retailers Convenience Store has spoken to were in favour of bringing in the polymer notes.
“I definitely think it’s a welcome change,” says Raj Aggarwal of Spar Queens Drive, Leicestershire, and Spar Hackenthorpe, Sheffield.
Paul Cheema, director of Malcolm’s stores, West Midlands, is also giving them the thumbs up. “There are a lot of forgeries, so hopefully the new notes will help.”
Manchester retailer Paul Stone is equally positive and plans to contact his equipment suppliers to ensure his business is ready for the change. “We’ll have to adjust our counter cash machines,” he says. “It’s a good thing, though, if these notes are harder to counterfeit and more durable - we need all the help we can get.”
Raj Chandegra, who owns six Londis stores in South and West London, agrees. “The worst thing about paper notes is that they don’t last,” he says. “If the security features are better on polymer notes then it will cut down on counterfeit notes, too. We have a cash counter so we’ll be contacting our supplier to see what needs to be done.”
Another retailer eager to embrace the new is the Convenience Retail Awards’ Best Use of Technology winner Richard Inglis, who owns three Welcome Co-op stores in Southampton. “Fake notes are a big issue for us,” he says. “We just get the odd flurry of them. At the moment, someone with a decent laser printer can create a fairly passable note. This won’t be the case with the new notes.”
He is looking to invest in new cash-counting equipment in preparation for the polymer notes. “We have to make sure our counter machines can handle the new notes,” he says. “We’ll probably replace a couple of our older machines. We’ll invest about £300 in a decent bit of kit. I’m looking at the Volumatic CountEasy.”
Tom Walker, business development representative at Volumatic, is urging retailers to consider the impact of the new notes. “We’ve seen a surge of interest from businesses trying to prepare for polymer. It could mean having to spend more time cashing up - whether you have to separate poly- mer from paper notes and what processes you have in place. There’s a lot more to think about than perhaps retailers will have anticipated.
“You don’t want to be trying to replace machines when the new notes are already out,” he says, noting that most of the firm’s products simply need updating, rather than replacing.
Retailers must think ahead, concurs Ogilvie. “Essentially, anywhere in the business that has cash as part of the process needs to be considered,” he says. “The main areas will be ATMs, self-service checkouts, ticket machines and any other machines that count, sort, accept or recycle notes.
“For the majority of the hardware, suppliers will be providing the necessary upgrades to the machines in preparation for the change to polymer, and it’s worth double-checking with your supplier that that’s the case, but retailers will also need to ensure their staff are aware of the new note, and how to check for authenticity.
“This can be done in conjunction with a bank note-checking machine and the range of free training material the Bank of England has produced for retailers to help with the transition.”
Richard is keen to ensure that all his staff are clued up on how to check that any notes are legitimate. “The Bank of England will send us a checklist to go through and we’ll do a training check sheet and every-one will have to sign it.”
Ogilvie advises other retailers to follow suit. “We all have the retailers and cash users at the heart of this change, and I would encourage every single retailer to reach out for support.”
For further information on how to prepare, visit: www.bankofengland.co.uk, or www.scotbanks.org.uk
What to look for in the new fiver:
A see-through window shows a portrait of the Queen with the words ‘£5 Bank of England’ printed twice around the edge
On the window is a detailed metallic image of the Elizabeth Tower. It is gold on the front of the note and silver on the back
Around the edge of the window is a coloured border which changes from purple to green when the note is tilted. The £ symbol in the window also changes from purple to green
The word ‘five’ on the foil patch below the clear window changes to ‘pounds’ when tilted
A foil patch above the clear window shows a 3D coronation crown
Run a finger across the note to feel raised print across the words ‘Bank of England’
A circular foil patch on the back of the note contains the word ‘Blenheim’
Printed lines and shapes are sharp and clear
The value of the note is written in micro letters and numbers under the Queen’s portrait
A number ‘5’ appears in red and green under UV light.