It’s one of the payments industry’s worst-kept secrets that EMV merchant acceptance has been nothing shy of dreadful and the reasons for that are many. But an intriguing survey by the independent ConsumerWorld has put some numbers and quite a few names on the naughty/nice list of EMV supporters. It seems that a liability shift these days can only get a cardbrand so far.
In exploring almost 50 of the largest national and regional retail brands between Dec. 1 and Dec. 5, ConsumerWorld found that although almost all had installed EMV-friendly terminals (RadioShack was the only holdout), 75 percent of them had not yet been activated.
“Only 11 chains in the survey have enabled the system chainwide and are processing payments using chipped-cards: Target (all stores), Walgreens (all stores), Home Depot (all stores), Rite Aid (all stores), Macy’s (all stores), Best Buy (all stores), Walmart (all stores), Sam’s Club (all stores), Lowe’s, Old Navy, and Office Depot/Max,” the story noted. “Among the 75 percent of retailers that have not yet enabled the chip technology chainwide are Sears, Kmart, Costco, Michael’s, Toys ‘R’ Us, Bed Bath & Beyond, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Sports Authority, Foot Locker, Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Petsmart, Kohl’s, Staples, Safeway, Kroger, and CVS (which expects full operation by the end of the year).” (Here’s the full chart of the surveyed stores.)
As we’ve noted before, there are reasons galore for the lack of compliance, including waiting for the software to be available and other holdhouts in the payments landscape. In short, no retailer is an island.
But there is also an impressive depth of apathy on this issue. Retailers know that EMV will slow down lines and at a time when much-faster mobile wallets are starting to take hold, few merchants are in a rush to start the chip drip. And shoppers, who hate the unfamiliar even more than merchants, are in even less of a rush to dip their payment.
In short, as long as the fallback magstripe is fully functional, the EMV migration will take its time. Operating on the premise that EMV is indeed coming, thieves have already shifted their attacks to online and are focusing on fraud other than cloned cards (which is the only fraud tactic that EMV truly thwarts).
That all said, these delays can only be milked for so long. A year from now, during the 2016 holiday shopping season, it’s quite likely that EMV acceptance will near 80 percent in the U.S.. That’s more conservative than many analyst estimates, but I think it’s much more realistic.
Mobile payments won’t have meaningful marketshare in time to save us from EMV, but retailers will still have visions of NFC connections and QR code scans dancing in their heads. But they’ll soon have to awaken from their long winter’s nap, see that mobile has yet to capture one-half of one percent of in-store sales and decide that a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight is ecstasy compared with finally accepting EMV. And yet, sadly, both are probably necessary.