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Tesco opens cashless store in central London | Business

Tesco has joined the growing cash-free revolution in the UK after opening its first cashless store in central London.

The outlet offers shoppers a range of electronic payment methods via self-service tills but does not accept notes or coins.

The store, which Tesco says is a permanent outlet, is aimed at shoppers in a hurry. Payment methods include contactless cards, debit and credit cards, Apple Pay and Tesco Pay+.

The branch opened a week after a report warned of the potential problems posed by an increasingly cashless society. The authors of the study said 8 million adults could find cashless payments a problem. The head of the Financial Ombudsman Service, Natalie Ceeney, said: “We need to make sure that this shift [to digital payments] doesn’t leave millions behind.”

The cash-free Tesco is on High Holborn, on the edge of the City of London. In the lunchtime rush on Wednesday, shoppers seemed to approve of the store.

Steve Bugg, a billings supervisor who works locally and emerged with a box of Sushi, said he had been “in and out of the shop in a couple of minutes. There were no queues. I will definitely be back.”

Allie, a barrister who bought two meal deals, said: “It was all very quick but I did find the scanner was very sensitive, and I paid for some items twice, which rather confused things. It’s just as well I noticed.”

The store has 14 till points but only two are staffed, to help with purchases of cigarettes and alcohol. It is Tesco’s second cash-free outlet – the first was opened at its head office in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Till-free stores have been tipped to arrive in the UK since Amazon opened its first “shop and walk out” Go outlet in Seattle in January 2018. Amazon uses cameras and sensors to track what each shopper buys and then debits a payment card held on file as they leave the store.

There has been speculation that Amazon plans to open Go shops in the UK. Supermarkets including Waitrose and the Co-op have launched or trialled apps that allow shoppers to pay using a mobile phone.

Last year, a few minutes’ walk from the cashless Tesco store, Sainsbury’s trialled the UK’s first till-free grocery outlet where shoppers could pay with their smartphone then leave without going through a checkout.

However, the retailer abandoned the scheme in September. “Take-up was not as we had expected and it’s clear that not all our customers are ready for a totally till-free store,” it said.

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