Despite Apple’s aggressive attempts to court U.S. retailers to sign on for Apple Pay, many remain skeptical of the new mobile payment system, Reuters reports. While Apple claims that half of the top 100 merchants in the U.S. have committed to supporting Apple Pay this year, discussions with analysis and merchants reveal that Apple’s forecast may be too optimistic, with many retailers unsure of the new payment system. Reuters surveyed 98 of the National Retail Federation’s list of top 100 U.S. retailers — all of those that have physical stores. Out of the merchants surveyed, 85 provided detailed responses while 11 only stated whether or not they currently accept Apple Pay and two did not respond to the request. From this information, Reuters concluded that while some of the merchants use and like Apple Pay, fewer than a quarter currently accept it, and almost two-thirds categorically stated they would not be accepting it this year; only four companies stated definite plans to implement Apple Pay in the next year. Reasons cited by retailers for not accepting Apple Pay included a lack of customer demand, inability to access data generated by Apple Pay transactions, and the cost of equipping stores with terminals and other technology to handle the contactless payment system.
Notably, some merchants also indicated they were holding out in anticipation of “a new mobile payment system to be launched by a coalition of retailers later this year” — quite likely the competing CurrentC service being launched by a consortium of retailers including Walmart, Best Buy, and Gap, the terms of which will prohibit participating retailers from accepting “any other mobile wallet” until 2016. Since 18 of the top 100 retailers are part of the MCX consortium behind CurrentC, it stands to reason that these merchants would be part of the group that has stated they will not be supporting Apple Pay in 2015.
Although statistics on mobile wallet payments are essentially unavailable as payment providers and credit card issuers do not disclose usage data, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in January that Apple Pay accounted for “two out of three dollars” spent in contactless payments, citing internal data but not releasing the data supporting those numbers. Most analysts agree that contactless payments and mobile wallets still account for only “a tiny percentage of U.S. retail transactions.” The lack of contactless payment terminals in U.S. retailers likely accounts for much of the lack of uptake in the technology, however most retailers will be required to install upgraded credit card terminals to support chip cards by October, most of which also allow for contactless payment systems. The U.S. dramatically lags behind other countries such as Canada in accepting mobile payments, suggesting that Apple may have a more successful market penetration when it’s expected to launch in Canada later this year.