How many UK retailers accept cryptocurrencies? ‘Zero’, says our straw poll of industry groups – but that can’t be right, surely?
The question of when Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will break through to the mainstream is a hot topic. Proper regulation and mass adoption will bring legitimacy to the industry – but how long will it be before people can pay for their weekly shopping in Bitcoin?
The odd independent coffee shop on your local high street might have taken cryptocurrency when it started to appear in news stories in 2013 and 2014, but the rocketing price, transaction fees, and wild volatility of Bitcoin at the end of 2017 sent many scurrying back to to the relative safety of fiat. No high street shop wants to be another Bitcoin Pizza Guy.
In an effort to find out just how popular cryptocurrency payment was in UK retails, we decided to ask all the major UK retail industry bodies for figures on how many high street shops actually accept Bitcoin – or any other form of cryptocurrency – at the moment. The results, to our surprise, are far from clear.
What is clear, though, is that there is little-to-no research underway among the major trade associations covering this issue. Indeed, most were bemused by the question.
We called up the UK’s largest retail associations for a straw poll to try to discover what statistics were available, starting with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – a body with 70% of the UK retail industry, by turnover, as members. A payments policy officer told us that they had not produced any specific research on cryptocurrency payments, but their annual report covered the types of payments made to members, and as far as they were aware the number was zero.
The BRC’s next annual report is due out in November 2018. While there will, again, be no specific questions about cryptocurrency payments, its members will once again be question will be asked about where payments have come from.
IMRG is the UK’s online retailers association. Their members include trade building supplier Screwfix, department stores John Lewis and House of Fraser, fashion retailers TK Maxx, Asos and Topshop, and the pharmacy Boots. A spokesman in their press department said that cryptocurrency payments are not something they have looked at in isolation, but the number of retailers who accept them is probably zero, and they had no research in the pipeline due to look into this.
“Acceptance of cryptocurrencies is not yet common for UK retailers;”, the group later told us in via email, “Our recent study of 40 of the top online retailer checkouts found that none offer it, for example. Retailers tend to be very customer-focused and, if their customers started to request alternative payment options such as cryptocurrencies, they would likely respond accordingly. That hardly any have done so to date suggests that clamour has not reached a tipping point yet.”
It’s not just the larger stores, either.
The Federation for Small Business have a membership of around 150,000 sole traders, limited liability companies and partnerships across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The vast majority are micro-businesses with less than 10 employees. When asked how many of their members take cryptocurrency as payment, a press office spokesperson declined to offer a comment.
The London-based Entertainment Retailers Association were similarly not aware of any internal research produced on cryptocurrency payments and said they did not hold any such information.
Mark Walmsley of the Internet Retailers Consortium, “an umbrella organisation representing a wide range of indie retail focused trade organisations” messaged us to say that:
“We haven’t undertaken any research on this item and I’m not aware of any or personally of any businesses accepting cryptocurrency. I can also confirm that this item has never been raised by any member organisations at our 2-3 annual meetings; to my knowledge not considered by indie retail, including my sectors, never seen mentioned, not even on forums.”
We’re not giving up on this just yet, though – but nor are we holding out much hope of finding any comprehensive information either. The best guide we’ve come across so far is via CoinMap, which offers a map-based guide to crypto accepting businesses. Though we can’t vouch for how up-to-date that info is, its heatmap of the UK certainly contradicts the opinion of all those trade bodies – so are all these forward facing crypto-accepting businesses flying under the radar? What a shame that would be.
Are you a retailer in the UK who accepts Bitcoin? We’d love to hear from you and talk about your experiences! Contact us via Twitter @cryptonewsrev
This article was originally published at 5.51pm of Thurs August 2nd, we added quotes from IMRG and the Internet Retail Consortium at 12.30pm on Friday August 3rd. At 1pm on Friday August 3rd, we amended the FSB submission to “declined to comment”, as per its request.