It’s coming. Soon the Bitcoin economy will exceed the value of a smaller real world currency and within a decade the BitCoin economy may exceed that of the British pound.  At least that’s what the proponents would like us to believe.

It’s coming. Soon the Bitcoin economy will exceed the value of a smaller real world currency and within a decade the BitCoin economy may exceed that of the British pound.  At least that’s what the proponents would like us to believe.

As a high street retailer, should you care about Bitcoin? The short answer is no. I am a great believer and proponent in the Bitcoin economy, but there’s a time and a place for everything. And the place for a virtual currency is in the virtual world of the internet, not on the high street.

Paying with Bitcoin is more complex than making a cash or card transaction. It will take longer to process at the checkout than traditional payment mechanisms and it will yield many questions. How do retailers refund customers or correct mistakes if Bitcoin payments are not reversible? How can a retailer ensure that staff are adequately trained to answer questions if Bitcoin perplexes even those that are better informed?

Customers are also unlikely to enter a store with only Bitcoins to pay for goods. To use a Bitcoin, customers need to access and a smartphone or laptop and make a fiddly instruction. The new generation of mobile payment products, which provide the ability to connect directly to a bank account, would be a better option for the both the consumer and retailer.

Today credit card systems take care of currency conversions for foreigners, and very soon we’ll see credit cards for Bitcoin holders - but a retailer won’t know that it’s any different. Just as a UK retailer doesn’t know, or even care, that my VISA card is actually linked to a Euro bank account.

Furthermore, there is no real reason for a retailer to hold Bitcoins. Just as there is no reason to hold euros or yen.

Even the world of ecommerce may not present many opportunities to retailers. While a stable and widely adopted digital currency could enable frictionless payments, the new value that creates would predominantly be around low value transactions where traditional fees are restrictive.

So how do we explain all the attention that Bitcoin has been getting in the media? And why are we reading about all manner of retailers accepting it as a form of payment. ‘Bitcoin taken here’ looks to me like it’s been a clever marketing campaign by a few niche retailers run by techies for techies. The real world doesn’t need to bother about Bitcoin at all.

Michael Jackson is an engineer, entrepreneur and venture capital investor at Mangrove Capital Partners