COLOGNE (dpa-AFX) - For customers, it is above all practical: they save the trip to the ATM and can stock up on cash while shopping. Withdrawing cash in supermarkets and other stores is becoming increasingly popular in Germany. However, this could still cause problems for retailers offering this service. This is the conclusion of a study published on Wednesday by the Koln-based retail research institute EHI.

"More and more people like to withdraw money, but fewer and fewer are paying with cash. If the cash ratio continues to decline, it will be difficult for retailers to fully maintain this service and meet demand in some cases. Cash would then have to be purchased from suppliers," says EHI study author Horst Rüter.

Merchants paid around 17.2 million euros in fees in 2023

The use and prevalence of cash withdrawals has risen rapidly. In 2019, retailers paid out 2.23 billion euros to customers, in 2023 it was more than 12.3 billion euros. The service is offered by grocery retailers such as Rewe and Edeka, drugstores such as DM and Rossmann and DIY stores, among others. Retailers have to pay for this, which according to EHI is between 0.1 and 0.2 percent of the amount paid out per transaction. In 2023, companies paid fees of 17.23 million euros to the banks, 25.7 percent more than in the previous year.

EHI payment expert Rüter predicts that the total will continue to rise due to the high demand. "This could lead to stores not always being able to pay out cash to customers, especially in the mornings when the tills are even emptier. Retailers would then have to stock up on extra cash," he says. According to the study, the critical threshold is reached when cash sales fall below 25 percent.

How are retailers dealing with this? "We don't see the predicted problems and bottlenecks for our group," says a spokesperson for Rewe. In 2003, the supermarket chain was one of the first retailers where customers could withdraw money. The service can be used from a purchase value of 1 cent with a giro card, with an upper limit of 200 euros. There are no plans to change this. The discounters Lidl and Aldi Süd are not commenting on any plans or changes.

dm demands: Banks should waive fees

The drugstore chain Rossmann did not want to buy additional cash, as it explained when asked. This is also not planned for the future, and the company does not see any restriction of the offer. Even at highly frequented sales outlets, all customer requests could generally be met, it said. Rossmann only introduced cash payments a year ago, for purchases over 10 euros. Competitor dm states that it is observing developments in the cash sector and examining the service for optimization. It would be "to be welcomed if the banks would refrain from charging a fee on the amount paid out", says a spokeswoman for the company.

Study author Rüter does not believe that retailers will discontinue the offer. However, a restriction is conceivable, for example in the form of a lower upper limit for the amounts paid out. According to EHI, retailers currently pay out 13.3 percent of the cash they receive back to customers. The share of cash in total sales fell by two percentage points to 35.5% in 2023 - and the trend continues to fall. Rüter expects that by 2025 it will only be

25 percent by 2025.

Why are people withdrawing more and more cash even though they use it less often? This is also contradictory from Rüter's point of view, but he does have an explanation. "Demand is also increasing due to the declining number of ATMs". In addition, there are still many cash lovers in Germany who are reluctant to pay by card./cr/DP/zb