Cashless society, WEOY and entrepreneurs on the beach

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Lately, I have been finding myself whipping out the plastic even for small buys like a supermarket sandwich or a tea, rather than scrambling around for loose change. I am not the only one. It turns out that a growing number of us are making smaller payments with our debit cards. The British Retail Consortium says new ways to pay, like self-service checkouts and ‘tap and go’ payments mean a third of transactions happen without cash.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC, said “Cash use down 14 per cent in the last five years is a milestone in the development of our digital economy”.

Technology is indeed changing fast, revolutionising the way we spend. Bank transactions on mobile phones have doubled in a year, we can now transfer money with a text message or simply pay for stuff with a wave: contactless card transactions now top £100m.

Businesses too are turning off cash. Recent research suggests it costs the average SME more than £3,600 per year just to handle cash. The survey, from Sage Pay, also found that businesses are not investing enough, fast enough, in new payment technologies, despite consumer demand. Thirty six per cent of consumers say they are more likely to shop at places that offer a range of payment methods or innovative payment types. If not cash, then the consumer is always king. In which case, cashless society, here we come. I’m looking forward to discussing that and more at the E-Commerce Summit in Barcelona later this month.

Who will inspire you?

images-1This week, I head back to Monaco for the 2014 EY World Entrepreneur of the Year conference.  It is a masterclass in entrepreneurship, is network-tastic and inspirational. I am really looking forward to rubbing shoulders with business brains from around the globe. Keynote speakers include previous winner Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani greek yoghurt, lifestyle queen Martha Stewart, speed painter Erik Wahl, football manager extraordinaire Sir Alex Ferguson and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammed Yunus. Yunus is a social entrepreneur best known for pioneering and spreading micro finance – loans for entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.  Loans for women in impoverished communities. He believes that the financial system as we know it only really services the top third of the world. That leaves two thirds of us out. Microcredit is a way of closing the gap. I suppose he is turning capitalist theory on its head. His focus is on people and the planet over profit. He believes that when a company makes a profit, that should stay with the company and get reinvested as a rule, rather than getting doled out in dividends. I can’t help but think  that might have quite a few cynical, profit hungry entrepreneurs squirming in their seats!


Seaside Heritage


Meanwhile, I was tickled to read about Maria Hopwood, an entrepreneur who has bought six thousand classic Blackpool seaside deck-chairs.  Blackpool Council withdrew the seats in 2004 feeling they were too last century. They have been in storage in Lancashire ever since. Now Hopwood, who already has a business selling replacement canvas for old deck-chairs, plans to restore them in their original stripe and make them available for hire. She told the Daily Telegraph: ‘We’re thrilled to be keeping these chairs in use. It would be an absolute travesty to lose this institution of the British summer.’  They could also be a nice little earner. In the late fifties, Blackpool Council banked a whopping £6million from the takings of deckchair hire over a period of three years.