Joe Richards started his first greengrocer’s stall in Coventry in the West Midlands in 1990, when he left the Army at the age of 21. Today, two decades later Joe Richards has 13 shops in Birmingham, Coventry, Kenilworth and Lichfield, with total weekly average sales of £132,000. The shops are primarily greengrocers like Joe’s original business, but also sell cut flowers, plants and some grocery items.
Joe Richards’ group head office is above his store in Daventry Road, Coventry. These days Joe employs an office manager but makes all the decisions himself about the company’s card payments technology, which consists of Elavon portable terminals.
When Joe opened his latest store in Kenilworth 15 months ago, it led to him taking the decision to get a card payment solution from Elavon: “I shopped around: I tried my bank and got a few other quotes, but Elavon were the most competitive and there was no reduction in service despite their lower price.”
Having seen the difference they can make in his business, Joe now sees card payments as the way forward: “Ten percent of our payment transactions are currently made by card. The proportion is growing, and quite soon could reach one third or even a half. People still think greengrocers are like Arthur Fowler in East Enders, all cash in the back pocket, but we’re not like that these days. People are carrying less cash now, but their average spend has increased.
“We rely heavily on impulse trade, people coming in and wanting to spend £20 but not necessarily having the cash on them. Our average value card transaction is £10, but we get shoppers spending £100 or more on special occasions and the seasonal peaks of Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. We’ve gained massively since we’ve moved to the Evalon system, because we don’t insist on cash.
“An investment in card payment services is more cost effective than you realise – the savings on cash handling more than offset the charges incurred for using card payments. It’s nothing like as cost-prohibitive as I first perceived – our gains on sales and the reduction in banking costs make it worthwhile. It makes very good sense.
“My only regret is not moving to card payments sooner. We have signs up in the shops saying we take card payments, and as more customers realise we have card terminals, their use of them is growing.”
Since calling in Elavon, Joe says he has never had any concerns about card security or faced any security issues. When things go wrong with the system, Joe says Elavon are very supportive: “They’re on my side, and my business is important to them. Lisa Bryan, our Sales Manager at Elavon, is extremely good: having struck the original deal with us, she hasn’t gone away, she is just as attentive now and her level of support and approachability is still great. There’s also a direct line you can call for advice.”
Joe hasn’t used the Elavon call centre himself to fix a problem but, he says, various shop managers use it, and they always sort things out: “We’ve not had any call outs yet, but we get immediate phone support when we need it. Based on my experience of Elavon’s support so far, I imagine they won’t mess about.” Elavon also offer systems for remote card payments, and can provide head office reports about cash payments going through the company’s systems.
Joe believes contactless payments are the way forward for payment cards in retail, and is enthusiastic about what the future holds: “When the time comes for Elavon to offer me Wave & Pay, we’ll take it, and the same goes for payment by mobile. When we first started with Elavon fifteen months ago, I would have been reluctant but now I feel confident it’s the way forward, and it would be counter-productive not to do it.
“Having Elavon as our payment cards service provider makes me feel confident that I’m moving in the right direction at the right speed. Having the latest payment card technologies means we can keep pace with the supermarkets. In the eighties and nineties they left us behind, but now the gap is closing. Up to fifteen months ago we had no experience of a card payment service, and we coped without it. Working with Elavon for the last fifteen months has now convinced me that it would be bad for our business long term not to have this facility in place.”
Elavon Merchant Services
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