Cryptocurrency has been making headlines this year due to volatile swings in stock prices, moves and comments by big-name investors, particularly Elon Musk, and news in July that the Federal Reserve is “exploring the implications of fast-evolving technology for digital payments” and plans to issue a report later this year. Visa reported that more than $1 billion was spent on crypto-linked Visa cards in the first half of 2021.
In May, Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz, which operates more than 600 stores in six states, announced it was set to allow digital currency payments using the Flexa network, meaning that customers would be able to purchase items in-store or fill up at the pump using cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin and more.
Sheetz plans to begin accepting cryptocurrency first at select Sheetz Café stores this summer, extending it to fuel pumps later in the year.
CStore Decisions caught up with Perry Kramer, managing partner at Retail Consulting Partners (RCP), to learn more about the opportunity around cryptocurrency for convenience store retailers.
“I give Sheetz credit for its foresight and innovative mentality in pursuing this payment technology,” Kramer said. “Even though cryptocurrency is still in the ‘try and learn’ phase of its life cycle, it’s important to note that alternate payment types have been in the growth phase in retail for the past several years.”
He compared the slow adoption of cryptocurrency to that of Apple Pay, noting that Apple Pay had a similar adoption curve when it was first introduced to the market.
The Flexa solution that Sheetz is using can act as a bridge between merchants and multiple cryptocurrency platforms and could offer a potential avenue for reducing interchange fees, he noted.
“To settle the payments in real time using its own network will give merchants the ability to process payments in either cryptocurrency or traditional currency,” Kramer explained. “There are tens of millions of dollars in potential annual savings for these payment types to reduce the interchange fees that retailers pay in the store and eventually at the pump.”
“This is similar to the early days of Apple Pay where the list of retailers that accept cryptocurrency is actually longer than most people know and includes, in some form, over a dozen major retailers including Lowe’s, Regal Cinemas, Whole Foods, Petco and others,” he added.