If more shoppers are buying items in cash, should you expect to wait in longer lines at the register? Probably not.
So far, the shift to cash isn't enough for retailers to change how they operate, experts said.
Also, it typically takes about the same time for a customer to buy items with cash — even with fumbling for change — as it does with a credit card payments that must wait to be electronically approved. That means Sears and Kmart, for example, haven't seen the need to change what they do, such as opening more cash registers to move customers quickly through checkouts, according to spokesman Tom Aiello of Sears Holdings Corp., the parent company of both retailers.
While shoppers who buy with credit cards are more likely to splurge, merchants love cash-paying customers. That's because cash doesn't require a retailer to pay a fee to credit card companies.
"Because the cost of handling cash is so much cheaper than the cost of handling plastic, retailers are only too happy to accept cash in general," said Mallory Duncan, NRF's senior vice president.
But cash has its own headaches, too. And if the transactions continue to grow in frequency, there will be more counting change at the register and merchants may eventually tweak checkout procedures.
Among them: requiring cashiers to clear money from registers more frequently, or increasing the number of bank drops each day — both things that have diminished in recent years as credit became more popular.
Still, the increase in cash won't dramatically alter the retail landscape, said Harry Friedman, a retail consultant who is CEO and founder The Friedman Group.
"This has been going around since the first loincloth was sold in a caveman store," he said. "What did we all do up until we had credit cards? We still seemed to have managed."
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