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German Retailers Embrace SEPA

The push to achieve a single European payment area (SEPA), with credit-reading equipment that can be used throughout Europe, has spread beyond the credit-card industry to include retailers, with German retailers among the most active initiators.

In its annual survey of card-based payments across 228 retail organizations, The EHI Retail Institute of Cologne noted that 40% of large German retail businesses plan to modify their card-payment infrastructure this year, and an additional 22.5% of German retailers expect to do so by 2009. This focus on improved transactions can be largely attributed to the steady increase in card transactions, which grew to 34.1% of all retail transactions on Germany in 2006. According to the EHI report, 82% of the card-based transactions can be attributed to debit transactions, either signature-based or PIN-based.

Growth in Co-Branded and Affinity Credit Cards

Last year, consumers used co-branded and affinity cards in at least 9.4 billion transactions worth at least $849 billion. According to a report from New York City-based Packaged Facts, roughly 30-60 million U.S. consumers carried more than 320 million co-branded and affinity credit cards at the end of 2006, up more than 100 million from an estimate of 212 million in 2003.

Marketers of co-branded and affinity cards are now seeking new avenues to reach under-penetrated consumer groups such as non-affluent households and consumers without bank accounts.

Young Shoppers Love Gift Cards

Gift cards have become one of the most popular presents for children of all ages, and in many instances parents have begun to replace the traditional allowance or reportcard rewards with gift cards. According to a recent report from consumer-research specialist The NPD Group of Port Washington, N.Y., 60% of all children received a gift card within the past few months, with mass merchandisers and toy stores being the most frequently mentioned type of gift cards received, followed by foodservice gift cards.

The report, which assessed overall dynamics surrounding the acquisition and redemption of gift cards while examining children’s attitudes toward them, determined that close to 58% of children use the gift cards for impulse purchases. Research for the report included an online survey of mothers with children between the ages of 2 and 14. It was conducted earlier this year between Feb. 16 and March 2. Among the findings:

Toys or board games were the most common purchases across all categories; however, older kids ages 9-14 was more likely to use their cards for video games or apparel. Cards for online retailers was most popular with 13- and 14-year-olds.

Boys received more gift cards for entertainment or electronics stores, and girls received more cards for department stores, clothing stores or book stores. The holiday season and birthdays were the most typical reasons for receiving cards.

The average value of gift cards presented to children was $44 and 39% of the recipients spent more than the face value of their card when it was redeemed.

New York Taxis Rolling Out Payment Options

By Oct. 1, 2007, the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) has mandated that all of the 13,000 licensed New York taxis should have implemented customer-service improvements including interactive electronic maps/information screens, and credit- and debit-card acceptance. San Jose, Calif.-based VeriFone announced in May that its payment system was the first to be approved by TLC. The VeriFone solution uses wireless technology in an ATM-style interface to provide payment options for cab passengers including card swipes or contactless credit and debit transactions. Passengers may select a predetermined tip from a list of choices, or input their own amount.

In unrelated announcements, VeriFone also cemented a deal with Vormittag Associates, Ronkonkoma, N.Y., an IBM premier business partner, to integrate the VeriFone MX870 payment platform and payment transaction middleware into its retail POS software. The integration provides retailers with fast, secure credit-card transactions and direct updates to ERP systems in real time.

Additionally, VeriFone added Carey Hilliard’s, a popular BBQ and seafood restaurant chain based in Savannah, Ga., to the roster of restaurants using its On The Spot payment solution, which provides for credit- and-debit-card acceptance at the point of service.