Pret a Manger sees growing appetite for contactless payments

By Sooraj Shah
06 Mar 2013 View Comments

Contactless payments at sandwich chain Pret A Manger have boomed over the past 12 months, according to the firm's director of IT, delivery and support, Andy Chalklin.

"Contactless payments in terms of our overall transactions have gone from single digits of probably between three to five per cent, to about 20 per cent in the last 12 months," Chalklin told Computing in an exclusive interview.

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He said that although the firm moved into the contactless area early on, it is only recently that it has seen a huge surge in users adopting and using the technology.

"We were a very early adopter and the availability of cards being locked down with the Barclaycard franchise didn't really take off until last year. With the proportion of card payments rising to one-third or more, even in our sector of the 'low-basket size', it is becoming critical to have good, robust, contact support," Chalklin said.

Pret's director of IT, delivery and support went on to say that Pret already has sufficient IT support, but that the company wants to be ready for the adoption of other technology, including near-field communication (NFC).

"We want to be right at the forefront of it, ready for NFC chips in the iPhone 6, ready for when Google releases its [product with contactless technology in the UK] and so on," he said.

Chalklin is an advocate of NFC as he believes it will benefit both consumers and businesses.

"As a retailer it is faster, it is a guaranteed payment methodology; it is not subject to charge-back from the acquirer, it is accessible as people forget their wallets at home but not their phones. And, from a retailing perspective, it is cheaper at the moment; it is 50 per cent of the interchange rate of any chip-and-pin transaction," he said.

He added that the sandwich chain is gaining sales from the use of contactless technology now, and is adamant that the firm will do everything in its power to ensure it is ready for the rollout of other mobile payment solutions.

"I think to be known as a place that accepts contactless cards has raised sales. What I don't want is to fall back; we need to always make sure our devices are the fastest available," he said.

"We are working with large mid-tier partners that had broad payment platforms, like Verifone. Because they work in multiple markets across multiple retailers they have more capability to accept things quickly. 

"So we're trying to make sure we can accept payments through multiple channels in order to not restrict ourselves. If Apple comes out with NFC technology in the next iPhone it is going to be difficult for every retailer, but we want to make sure we are in the front of the pack with everybody else," he said.

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