The future of the high street is cashless

Recent numbers showed that retail faced the biggest drop of sales since 2017[1] – however, we can’t only blame the ‘Beast of the East’ sweeping through the high street in March, but also have to take into account the inflation spike the UK faced after the Brexit referendum.

Although this might ease the crisis for a moment, retail must reinvent itself and think of ways to combat plummeting sales. As e-commerce becomes increasingly more popular, brick-and-mortars have to take a look on their customers’ journey and their offer in order to find the remedy that fits them best. H&M is probably one of the best examples showing that even big corporates don’t make an exception of the current crisis, which is why the fashion giant is looking to connect their on- and offline presence in such a way that it becomes more attractive and convenient for their customers. The particularly bad weather conditions during the past month showed us that on- and offline will have to go hand in hand to avoid shoppers -fallout and thus to stabilize sales.

But what does the future of brick-and-mortar look like?

To further understand consumer spending habits and opinion, card processing specialists Paymentsense conducted a study of 2,000 UK residents to reveal their spending opinions and analysed data to see which cities in the UK are the ones where cashless and contactless card transactions where used the most – with regard to recent talks about the cashless society, this also gives a hint which cities in the UK are most likely to be the first to become completely cashless.


The top cities for overall card transactions


Sum of Transactions


LONDON 59,498,327
BIRMINGHAM 10,000,609
BRISTOL 8,297,118
BRIGHTON 6,775,089
MANCHESTER 5,449,368
SHEFFIELD 4,765,407
EDINBURGH 4,140,689
PORTSMOUTH 3,712,439
LEEDS 3,655,217
OXFORD 3,450,293

According to their study, Paymentsense found out that 42% of all transactions are paid with contactless cards – and it’s assumed that this will even make up more than one in four payments by 2026. To further understand this development, they also analysed in which cities most people ‘tap and go’.


The top ten cities for contactless transactions


Sum of Transactions


Contactless Transaction Rate

BRISTOL 8,297,118 59.50%
LONDON 38,514,219 57.06%
BRIGHTON 6,775,089 55.85%
HULL 1,960,002 55.73%
BIRMINGHAM 10,000,609 52.97%
YORK 2,217,563 51.68%
LEEDS 3,655,217 50.14%
NOTTINGHAM 3,195,920 50.12%
OXFORD 3,450,293 48.99%
NORTHAMPTON 2,211,404 48.35%

According to this study, 80% of Brits claimed that card transactions, including contactless, were their favourite form of payment, whereas 46% of the respondents raised concerns about the security of card transactions. This stresses the importance of card transactions if a business is going to be able to survive today’s market.

Guy Moreve, Head of Marketing at Paymentsense, points out:

“As a society, we’re close to becoming cashless with contactless now making up over 42% of all transactions, as our asset highlights which UK cities are the most advanced in terms of payment solutions. There’s areas of the UK that are adapting to this movement, but others that haven’t made the list need to improve and move with the times.

“The study further highlights the average person’s diminishing availability of cash, as many struggle when it comes to everyday, cash-only services such as car parks and taxis, and the importance of accepting card payments within these businesses.”

It is thus important for today’s businesses to be able to cater to customer’s needs and give them the opportunity to pay by contactless. Saying this, the data reflected in this study gives an overview about contactless card transactions in different industries.


The top 20 industries for contactless card transactions


Merchant Type

Sum of Contactless Transactions

Sum of all Card Transactions

Contactless Rate

BAKERIES 6,395,254 8,876,300 72.05%
FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS 12,695,781 21,794,147 58.25%
DRINKING PLACES 14,852,424 25,762,223 57.65%
DRUG STORES & PHARMACIES 2,904,586 5,317,927 54.62%
EATING PLACES & RESTAURANTS 59,206,613 108,822,552 54.41%
NEWS DEALERS & NEWSSTANDS 672,925 1,298,455 51.83%
CATERERS 422,240 833,993 50.63%
PACKAGE STORES – BEER, WINE & LIQUOR 1,272,863 2,534,830 50.21%
GIFT, CARD, NOVELTY 1,922,428 4,401,842 43.67%
CIGAR STORES AND STANDS 1,051,247 2,484,530 42.31%
HEALTH & BEAUTH SPAS 39.55% 166,300 420,485
BOOK STORES 38.55% 242,308 628,554
DRY CLEANERS 33.36% 282,390 846,478
MENS & WOMEN S CLOTHING STORES 32.59% 958,799 2,942,252
PET SHOPS, PET FOODS & SUPPLY STORES 31.09% 758,320 2,438,778
SCHOOLS & EDUCATIONAL SVCS 28.49% 64,005 224,654
HOTELS, MOTELS, & RESORTS 22.88% 616,359 2,693,454

Guy Moreve adds: “It’s not just the bakeries, bars and fast food establishments which need to embrace contactless. The indication is that even if businesses don’t fall into one of the ‘Top 20’ categories, they’re losing potential sales by not taking contactless payments and should embrace contactless before they get left behind.”

Especially younger spenders seem to be in favour of contactless card transactions, as 41% Brits aged 18-24 stated it was their favourite form of payment compared to just under 10% of people aged 55+.

And there is still more potential: Almost half of the Brits surveyed said they would like car parks to accept card payments. This was closely followed by public transport (42%) and taxis (40%). Businesses could lose out on custom if they refuse to adapt to the contactless revolution, as 30% people in the UK would go to another shop if the vendor didn’t accept card payments.

All this suggests that hard cash is no longer king in high street and that we’re about to become a cashless society after all, to which retail has to adapt to in order to stay profitable.


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