Retail treasury professionals discussed handling cash during a retail industry roundtable at AFP 2017 sponsored by Fifth Third Bank. As usual, armored carrier services continue to be a major pain point for merchants.
“One of the things we talk a lot about are cash and cash solutions,” said a treasurer for a major restaurant chain. “We take money how we get it, and for us, a lot of that is still cash. And managing the ecosystem to get cash from our stores to the mothership has been an ongoing challenge. So I’d like to hear what other merchants are doing to manage cash, if you’re still accepting it.”
A treasurer for a high-end department store responded that cash makes up about 6 percent of the tender her company receives. “That’s a minimal percentage but still a large amount of cash,” she said. “Dealing with armored couriers is a headache for us. We have therapy sessions often about it.”
As a result, the retailer is looking into alternate solutions to get cash to the bank. The company presently uses one of the major national couriers, but is evaluating regional couriers where it operates. “We’re looking at it from a risk mitigation standpoint,” she said. “If something were to go wrong with the bigger carriers, we feel like we could be in a situation where we wouldn’t have the ability to get cash to our stores or from our stores.”
The treasurer of a big box retailer noted that he has had some success with regional carriers, “but there aren’t enough regionals out there.”
As for national carriers, the treasurer noted that the majority of the ones he works with are not only poor in terms of service, but they are also heavily resistant to technological advances. “They are really against using any technology solutions for tracking things,” he said.
This appears to be a common problem; the restaurant chain treasurer said she has experienced the same issue with her carriers. “They’re not service-oriented, and they’re not logistics oriented, which is sad because they’re transporting our money,” she said.
To remedy her armored carrier problem, the restaurant treasurer is looking at using the U.S. Postal Service to move cash to and from her stores. “We’re going to try and test that to create more flexibility on the pain point of our stores, which is getting money into the stores on change orders without having to rely on the couriers,” she said. “If it works, we may expand from there.”
She added that USPS will handle up to $5,000, but it does not insure it; retailers either need to get a third-party insurer or self-insure. UPS, in contrast, will insure up to $5,000 of change order delivery or deposits.
Investing in a cash recycler can also make the cash handling process easier. These machines account for cash and store it for future use. Some retailers don’t handle enough cash to justify the cost of these machines, but those that do have found that they can be a huge help.
“We’ve put cash recyclers into every one of our stores in the last couple of years,” the big box retail treasurer said. “The savings we achieved were easily enough to pay for it. But our customer base is still using cash primarily. And we did it agnostic of banks and carriers.”
Do it yourself
Lastly, there’s always the option of taking the money to the bank yourself, as risky as that might be. One practitioner noted that some of her stores employ this method, but only if the bank is less than two miles away.
Another practitioner who works for a company that operates ski resorts noted that armored carriers can’t reach many of their locations. “Our internal security department drives the cash to the bank, which might be an hour and a half down the road,” he said. “But what can you do? The challenge is trying to find couriers who are willing to drive three hours up a mountain in the winter.”