Cashier handing over money to a customer

Improving Cash Management for Grocery Stores


Cash automation increases working capital, eases labor challenges, and improves customer service in grocery stores.

Even as more customers swipe, tap, or insert their credit and debit cards for contactless payments, dealing with cash is still the reality for grocery store managers. The process can be a labor-intensive and time-consuming task as there is endless counting, reconciling, and preparing deposits for frequent trips to the bank.

While Federal Reserve data show cash payments declined from 26% in 2019 to 20% in 2021, grocery stores haven’t seen this trend. Managing the cash that comes in takes dedicated labor and can present the same security risks, no matter the value. Tills still have to be opened, and cash drawers still need to be filled. In other words, the ratio of cash sales and labor spent on cash management is not proportionate.

"The amount of dedicated labor and redundant tasks are leading to stronger returns on investment for automation of cash received at all retailers," said Robert Norman, Senior Vice President and Head of Cash Logistics Solutions at Fifth Third Bank. "That’s time employees and managers could be spending taking care of customers and tasks that create more revenue to their business."

For grocery store management coping with labor shortages and narrow profit margins, there is a better way. Big changes in cash-related processing tools and technologies and ways to use them can help grocery store owners overcome cash management hassles, freeing them to focus on their primary business.

Here are some of the challenges stores face in dealing with cash management and how they can solve the problem easily.

Handling Cash in a Labor Shortage

The labor crisis of the past two years has hit all retailers hard. Turnover is high, and owners and managers often have trouble getting enough people to work each shift. Some 80% of food industry retailers said their ability to attract and retain workers had been challenged, resulting in a negative business effect, according to the Food Industry Association’s 2021 SPEAKs survey.

Staff shortages mean fewer people are available to focus on non-core tasks such as counting, reconciling, and depositing cash sales. Managers often find themselves scrambling to get these tasks done while also dealing with other tasks that add value to their core business.

Fortunately, automated cash management solutions are becoming more and more the focus of retailers, which use both hardware in the store and sophisticated software, to perform all of a store’s cash requirements. With on-site deposit and recycling machines, cash tasks that used to be a function of dedicated resources can now be completed as one additional step for the cashiers to start and complete their day.

Through an interface on the cash management device, employees enter unique credentials to obtain their starting bank, perform their job, and deposit their final cash at the end of the day. The equipment counts, reconciles, and manages incoming cash, reducing errors and eliminating the need for recounts while also capturing the data that can be used for final reconciliation and a host of other functions, such as trend analysis. By automating the front end, the opportunity for a complete end-to-end reconciliation flow all the way to corporate headquarters can be obtained.

With Fifth Third Currency Processing Solutions®, cash held in the machines is recorded as a deposit into the store’s bank account, eliminating employee trips to the bank and offering an accurate tally of cash received throughout the day. Fifth Third’s solutions have proven to reduce employee hours by a full-time equivalent, often a 40-hour week, depending on the environment and handling approach desired.

In addition, Fifth Third’s cash management experts can work with store owners and managers to optimize their cash management, including looking at average daily cash sales, finding ways to reduce the amount of money in the tills, and determining the optimum number of cash registers to open at specific times of the day. This type of analysis can often help increase working capital. For example, if a store determines it needs only $4,000 on the floor at one time, instead of the $10,000 it was using, that’s a substantial amount of cash now available each day for other business goals.

Scheduling and Managing Armored Cash Pickups

One of store managers’ biggest pain points is dealing with the cash pickups by security companies. Coordinating schedules is often time-consuming and difficult, resulting in a lot of lost time waiting for the truck to show or making new appointments.

A good cash management system integrates armored car pickup into the service. Fifth Third Currency Processing Solutions®, for example, manages all armored courier relationships and coordinates schedules, so that store managers and owners don’t have to devote their time to the task. The use of deposit and recycling machines can also help reduce the number of armored pickups necessary.

Understanding Your True Cash Position

Having cash on-site, sitting idle in a rising rate environment, means it’s not earning interest or available for management to leverage for corporate initiatives. Obtaining visibility about how much cash is in the store at any given time can be a challenge, increasing the amount of money sitting idle.

When deposits are made into the on-site hardware, management has a 24/7 picture of how much cash is available for operational needs and working capital. That’s valuable data that management didn’t have previously. Fifth Third experts can help store managers use that data to boost working capital and get a better handle on cash and treasury management.

Fifth Third provides provisional credit within its currency processing solutions. Deposits into on-site hardware are made available to stores even before the cash has been taken to the bank by an armored car service. This can be especially effective in helping small retailers and independent stores compete with larger rivals. Managers have the ability to make quick decisions and operational changes using the newly found cash much faster than large chains.

How to Reduce Shrinkage

Having substantial cash on-site means stores are potentially vulnerable to errors and theft. Shrinkage accounted for more than $95 billion in losses in the retail industry, according to the 2022 National Retail Security Survey. Not all of that is cash theft, of course, but it shows how much shrinkage can affect the bottom line. Automated cash management can reduce the number of cash touchpoints employees have, minimizing errors and losses. On-site depositing can also help reduce security concerns for employees because cash is stored safely and out of sight.

Efficient cash management can be a lifeline for retailers and especially grocery store owners and operators. It allows for a safe, labor-saving, and more customer-oriented environment for time-strapped employees. At the same time, it gives managers and owners insights and access to their cash position and working capital, freeing them to focus on business decisions that can help them remain competitive and make the most of their workforce.

To learn more about Fifth Third Currency Processing Solutions®, contact your relationship manager or find a banker.

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