By Claire West

New research released today by Barclays and Barclaycard reveals that far from our stereotype as a nation that loves to wait in line, two fifths of us refuse to queue for longer than two minutes and two-thirds (68%) of us regularly abandon purchases.

According to the poll of 2,000 shoppers , women will queue only 12 seconds longer than men, but the biggest surprise is the willingness of younger shoppers (18-24) to wait a full two minutes longer in line than those aged 55-64.

Impatient shoppers are hungry for change, with food or drink outlets found to have the most frustrating queues. In contrast, supermarkets are seen to the best at managing queues. Half (51%) of shoppers refuse to even enter a store if they spy a queue and the research shows that some retailers are taking extreme measures to cope with our impatience with a third (30%) of shops shifting till positions to hide long queues.

In contrast a savvy 1 in 10 (12%) retailers, including supermarket chain Co-operative, have begun to deploy contactless payment systems which, by doing away with the need to enter a pin code, reduce transaction times by over a third .

Stuart Neal, Head of UK Payment Acceptance at Barclaycard,
said: “While retailers appear to be aware that even their most loyal customers are not prepared to wait in line any more, hiding the evidence of queues is not the way to fix the problem".

"Consumers have increasingly busy lives and retailers must be prepared to fit in with them by offering innovative solutions to speed up transactions. By embracing technology and installing new payments systems, such as contactless, retailers will stay ahead of the curve and limit the amount of time that people are waiting in shop queues.”

The research throws up some interesting variations in people’s patience with the average time we’re willing to wait found to be just over five and half minutes.

Unexpectedly Londoners were the second most patient, at just under six minutes, coming just after Yorkshire (6 minutes and five seconds) for the average time they’re prepared to wait. In contrast shoppers in the South East and North West could barely wait five minutes.

The top frustrations of queuing shoppers were not enough staff serving customers, sales assistants spending too long chatting to customers and people fumbling in their pockets for change. Half of shoppers (46%) favour stores with express lanes.

Brian Cunnington, Head of Debit Cards, UK Retail Banking at Barclays said: “The research shows that, particularly for small ticket items, consumers are no longer prepared to wait in line. They know they can go to another shop and purchase what they need more quickly".

"That is why many of our customers are starting to use contactless payment for goods under £15. It vastly speeds up purchases, while removing the need to fumble for the right amount of cash.”

The study shows that the lower the value of the item the more likely a shopper is to abandon a purchase if a queue is perceived to be too long. The number of people willing to wait no more than a minute triples for lesser amounts, while the number willing to wait around 10 minutes falls dramatically for lower value purchases.

An increasing number of retailers, such as Co-operative supermarket, Little Chef, EAT., Subway and Pret a Manger are installing contactless payment systems as a way of reducing queue times. These leading retailers have helped increase awareness of contactless and, as a result, nearly a third (29%) of consumers now recognises the contactless symbol.


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