Waitrose is rolling out contactless payments to all its stores this year as it looks to increase the number of ways customers can pay.

It has trialled the technology in three stores and a full roll out will go ahead later this year.

The grocer is also rolling out self checkout tills this year and retail services director Graham Heald said the aim is to give customers more choice.

Waitrose is aiming to speed up transaction times, minimise queues and reduce the space taken up by traditional checkouts.

“The same customer might come in three times a day and want to transact in three different ways,” he said at the NRF conference in New York. “It’s about enhancing service.”

Contactless payments allow customers to pay using their mobile phone. Near field communication (NFC) technology is attached to the phone and the retailer’s chip and pin device, and payment is taken when the customer swipes the phone against the device.

Customers currently can’t use contactless devices to pay for transactions worth more than £15, and Heald admits this is a barrier. But he said the technology will see more widespread adoption when banks relax the payment limit.

He said: “The Olympics will also accelerate it because it’s supposed to be the first contactless Games. It will start to capture people’s imaginations a bit more.”

He added Waitrose’s current chip and pin hardware was ready to be replaced anyway, so the investment was “not hugely costly.”

The retailer estimates that in those shops that have self checkout, at least 20% of transactions are now channelled through the self-checkout terminals.

Heald said that providing a range of ways to pay means branches can be more flexible, allowing them to deal more easily with queues and busy periods. He added customers increasingly expect retailers to have the latest technology. “There’s a perception that you’re falling behind if you don’t have it.”

Waitrose are working with Wincor Nixdorf.

  • Fifty Superdrug stores in London and Liverpool have installed contactless payment systems for transactions of up to £15. A nationwide roll-out of the system will take place later this year.