Cash machine users in forecourts spend more money per visit than the average forecourt shopper, and they visit the forecourt store more frequently. These findings come from the Convenience Tracking Programme 2006, which found that forecourt shoppers who used an ATM on site spent £5.40 per trip versus the forecourt average of £4.22, plus they visited the store 2.6 times a week against the forecourt average of 2.1 times a week. Cash machine users in forecourts spend more money per visit than the average forecourt shopper, and they visit the forecourt store more frequently. These findings come from the Convenience Tracking Programme 2006, which found that forecourt shoppers who used an ATM on site spent £5.40 per trip versus the forecourt average of £4.22, plus they visited the store 2.6 times a week against the forecourt average of 2.1 times a week. It’s all good news but if you haven’t got an ATM how do you go about getting one?
Ron Delnevo, managing director of Bank Machine, makes it sound easy. His company will do a site survey, agree terms with the retailer and install the ATM within three to four weeks. He says: "A bank can take months to put in an ATM. We can provide a forecourt with a freestanding pod or a through-the-wall machine - we’re flexible because all sites are different. For added security, all our machines incorporate a dye system so if the machine is tampered with all the notes are ruined."
Delnevo says most forecourt retailers choose to charge their customers for withdrawals because they want to make more money. Typically the withdrawal charge is £1.50. He says most of his customers choose a fully-managed service with the machines filled for them. "We know how much money there is in any particular machine at any time because we only make money if the machine has cash in it. We fill up the machines regularly - two or three times a week at busy sites or once a week at less busy ones. We do allow retailers to self-fill but the vast majority opt for our hassle-free service."
Meanwhile, Cashbox’s main focus is on internal self-fill ATMs. Carl Thomas, chief executive officer of the company, explains: "From the retailer’s perspective it is no different to running an additional till. A float is loaded in the morning. This float comes from the cash the retailer took in their tills the previous day - so notes are banked into the ATM rather than being physically taken to a bank. This self-fill programme helps to substantially reduce the risk of attack on the ATM as it only ever holds enough cash for a single day’s use - between £500-£1,000 on a typical forecourt site. If a store is not a 24-hour one then no cash is left in the ATM overnight and the retailer leaves the safe door open to clearly show it is empty."
Like Bank Machine, the company carries out a survey before signing up a site to ensure its suitability for an ATM. Thomas says: "The criteria for getting a machine ranges from availability of a phone line and power supply in close proximity to the proposed ATM location space, to competition from other ATMs in the local area, to usage potential of the ATM."
Finally, for forecourts that don’t have the space for a cash machine, Cardpoint reckons it has the perfect solution - a bolt-on ATM. Marketing director, Mick McHale, explains: "Our bolt-on is an extension to a forecourt store. It’s an ATM in its own secure environment that is made from a reinforced steel for extra security. We can provide forecourts with a turnkey ATM solution, sorting everything from planning permission to installation. And we fill the machines for the retailers so it’s a completely managed service." Added security comes from anti-ram raid bollards positioned in front of the machines.
McHale says there is no cost to the retailer but they do have to sign a contract. Cardpoint makes its money from the cash withdrawal fee, which is typically £1.60. Retailers do get a cut of this fee too but McHale says the major benefit comes from the increased footfall and spend from having an ATM.
According to an online poll conducted by Citizens Advice, 93% of people think all cash machine withdrawals should be free and 88% said they would only pay to withdraw their cash ’as a last resort’.
However, according to the ATM providers, consumers don’t mind paying for the convenience of withdrawing cash when and where they need it.
Ron Delnevo, managing director of Bank Machine, comments: "Some of the busiest ATMs in the country are on forecourts where people understand they have to pay for the convenience of being able to withdraw their cash."
Cashbox even goes so far as to call its charge a ’convenience fee’. Says Carl Thomas, chief executive officer of Cashbox: "Contrary to popular belief, customers who use fee-charging ATMs are happy to do so because of the convenience of accessing their cash from a location where they were previously unable to do so. They view it as ’a small price to pay for an easy life’. On the whole, those who use independent machines are aware that they will be charged a convenience fee. This is clearly displayed on the ATM and the customer is presented with a prompt screen during the transaction reminding them of the fee and asking them to agree to it."
Last summer LINK, the network that connects almost every free and charging ATM in the UK, agreed comprehensive rules with its members whereby at least three warnings of fees being charged were required at machines. The rules require that all charging machines carry a message on the idle screen before a card is inserted, stating that a charge will be made and the amount of that charge. During the transaction customers are reminded of the fee and given the chance to cancel the transaction. External signs must also say that the machine charges for withdrawals.
Last autumn LINK authorised an independent survey of charging machines to check compliance. The vast majority of machines checked were compliant and the operators of those that weren’t were given 10 days to comply or risk having their machines disconnected. Earlier this year the non-compliant machines were visited again and most of the problems had been sorted.