Cash: The Comeback - Kid?

Posted on: 10/05/2020

There is much speculation about the extent of the comeback cash will make after the latest pandemic is behind us.

To be fair, cash has had a bit of a tough ride. 

Lockdowns impacting more than half the worlds population have lured people into the clutches of internet shopping - and, as we all know, paying by cash on the internet is a bit tricky!

On top of that, the World Health Organisation has perhaps been a little casual in relation to statements - official or otherwise - in respect of the relative safety of various in-person payments.

In reality, no in-person payment is any safer than any other. As Peter Sellars knew, Being There is what matters - and that certainly holds true in the retail sector.

Your risk in shopping is being there in-person to do it, not how you pay.

Be that as it may, the media chose to spin whatever the WHO said or didn't say to imply handling cash was a serious health hazard.

Which isn't true - but why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

So cash has had a few heavy body-blows.

What has all this meant for cash use by the public?

First, the good news.

Cash in circulation has increased in a number of markets, probably reflecting the publics desire to use banknotes as a store of value. 

We all know that, if there is anything to pay for, cash works when all else fails. 

This has been true for 2500 years - and all the evidence suggests 2020 is no different.

As regards cash use for payments, it seems to have gone down significantly in some markets, the UK being one example. However, reports I am getting from British convenience retailers indicate that, even during the pandemic, cash is still accounting for 50% of their sales.

So down - but, quite definitely, not out!

Back to the question I posed in the first paragraph; how much of a comeback is cash likely to make once we are virus-free?

I have, of course, no precise answer to offer. No one does.

What I do know, however, is that almost every business will be desperate to claw-back lost revenues as they emerge from the dark days of the lockdown. This in turn means that such businesses will be disinclined to pull stunts like informing potential customers that their cash wont be accepted.


Also, there is unfortunately every likelihood that employment - or lack of it - will become a significant issue post-pandemic. Money is going to be tight for many. Budgeting will be very important.


So there are certainly factors pointing in the direction of cash use increasing again once normality - or even the "new normality" - is restored.

Lets look on the bright side. The recovery required for cash to be restored to pre-pandemic usage levels is as nothing compared to the comeback the likes of airlines will need to make.

A silver lining in the clouds facing the air travel industry?

Who knows, a need to clinch every sale they can get may even persuade British Airways to start accepting cash again on their flights!



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