Will it be a cashless Christmas in Cardiff?

Indie sellers are transitioning towards card-only payments instead of notes and coins, but cash vs credit remains a hot topic at Cardiff’s Christmas market

Karen Shellac stands in her Christmas stall with a chalkboard sign that states "Please note we only take cash payments"
Karen Shellam, the proprietor of Hot Welsh Cakes by Mum & Me, said: “As a customer I always use cash. I do find it easier once there’s nothing left in my purse, that’s it, there’s no more to spend.” Photo by Sophie Colson.

A new survey by UK Finance suggests cash payments increased for the first time in a decade last year – and here in Cardiff independent retailers are encouraging customers to spend their sterling in its physical form.

The data released in October, showed cash payments rose by 7% in 2022. This year, as a result of budgeting pressures and shopping locally, cash purchases are likely to rise in the Christmas season, so how do vendors feel about cash vs card? 

Karen Shellam, the proprietor of Hot Welsh Cakes by Mum & Me, only accepts cash payments at her stall in the Cardiff Christmas Market. She said: “I only take cash because I don’t want to bother with the machine.” 

She explained she felt the same when she’s a customer, and added: “I object to being forced into using a card because, unless we carry on using cash, then we’ll lose it.”

Jan sits in her Christmas stall, a sign behind her saying "Handmade in Wales"
Jan Holmes, proprietor of Jan’s Crafts and Gifts said: “I’m a bit old fashioned. I draw out so much money from the bank every week and that’s how much I know I’ve got to spend.” Photo by Sophie Colson

Shellam’s opinion was echoed by other businesses at the Christmas market. Jan Holmes, owner of Jan’s Crafts and Gifts, said: “As a small business we prefer cash, because we get charged for using card machines.”

Although Holmes said she was surprised by the number of people asking her if she accepted cash, stating that around four in 10 customers asked. 

The UK Payment Market Summary 2023 explained the cost of living crisis has led some consumers to manage their spending by drawing money. Despite this, cash payments have been showing a long-term decline over the past two decades, with an expectation that they will more than halve by 2032. 

Javier stands in his stall, his products around him and a banner with his business name behind him.
Javier De Francesco, owner of Il Giardino said: “I prefer cash because I know how much I’m spending. When I pay by card I just tap it and then at the end of the day I don’t really know how much I’ve spent.” Photo by Sophie Colson

Some businesses at Cardiff’s Christmas market found accepting card payments was less hassle. 

Simon Matthews, who runs the Melted Cheese Company, said: “I prefer card. As a food business, it’s easier if I have no interaction with the customer because of food hygiene standards.” 

Simon Matthews stands in his Christmas stall with a nachos dish in hand.
Simon Matthews, from the Melted Cheese Company said: “As a consumer, I prefer card because it’s easier and you don’t have to worry about holding onto cash.” Photo by Sophie Colson

So although the UK Payment Market Summary projects a continued decline of cash payments, many indie sellers at Cardiff’s Christmas market are at the forefront of the fight to keep cash flowing.