Forget Silicon Valley. If you are looking for cutting-edge technological innovation, the place you really need to go is Swanage. Dorset retailer Andy James runs Swanage News, the first convenience store in the UK to accept the digital currency Bitcoin.
He said: “The first customer to use it was a lad who put a Kit Kat on the counter and said ‘Can I pay by Bitcoin?’
“We both just started laughing. But then he paid for it with Bitcoin. We also sold the first National Lottery tickets to ever be sold by Bitcoin.”
Payments with Bitcoin work by typing in the amount of cash into an iPad, and then the customer scans a QR-code on the tablet to transfer the funds from their account to the shop.
“The chap who set up my Bitcoin account said it would be more useful for publicity than trading at this stage, and he’s right – people love it.”
Retail Express reader Andy is now due to appear on the BBC’s Money Programme on August 16 and also on BBC Breakfast. It’s been a real talking point and his younger customers think it’s great.
So far he has just £14 of Bitcoin in his account, but should it take off in the UK it could prove a headache for banks, because there is no fee for a transaction, unlike with Visa cards.
Andy is now investigating the possibility of getting a Bitcoin ATM machine installed.
“People don’t really understand it at the moment,” he said.
“As a retailer you have to make it easy to do. If it’s easy, they’ll use it.”