J.C. Penney's Latest Leap: Retailer to Ditch Cash Registers, Cashiers

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Cash registers could join the ranks of pay phones and typewriters sooner than you think.

J.C. Penney (JCP) will say farewell to cash registers, checkout counters and cashiers by 2014, said Ron Johnson, the chain's CEO, during the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, reports Time.

Penney's plan evokes Apple's (AAPL) mostly cash-register free stores -- and that comes as little surprise: Johnson was the head of Apple Retail and is considered the mastermind behind its success. He left Apple in November to take the top spot at J.C. Penney.

Johnson, who has been in the headlines lately for Penney's radical, controversial -- and so far, unsuccessful -- strategy to eliminate most of its sales and coupons, is now looking to shake up the checkout experience in the chain's stores.

His plan is to eliminate cashiers, cash registers and checkout counters, replacing them with a patchwork of technology solutions, such as WiFi networks, mobile checkout, RFID (radio frequency identification) technology tracking systems for merchandise, as well as self-checkout options.

"Think of a physical store without a cash wrap," Johnson told the audience, according to Time. "About 10% of all the money we spend, half a billion dollars a year, goes to [checkout] transactions." The money saved by replacing checkout stations with new technology could be invested in improving customer service, he said.

Ryan Taft, managing partner with OnSpot Social, an iPad app for retailers that collects Facebook "likes," Twitter followers and email addresses in-store, believes the retail industry is at the early stages of the end of the widespread use of cash registers.

"In-store marketing through technologies like iPad, RIFD, WiFi, etc, is the future of retail," he tells DailyFinance. "Some retailers may do away with cash registers altogether, while others may simply cut down on the number of cash registers, and only use them for larger purchases."

Taking a Cue From Apple

Apple, for one, let's customers of its Apple Stores pay in any of three ways, he notes.

Each Apple Store typically has one or two cash registers at the back of their stores, mostly reserved for large purchases.

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"The second is actually through an Apple store employee who will take your credit card and run it through their credit card scanner attached to an iPod Touch. The third, and in my opinion the most innovative, is you can actually check yourself out by pulling out your iPhone, opening the Apple Store Application, scanning the barcode of your product, and then paying through your iTunes account," he says. "This is the future of retail checkout."

And while some predict the demise of store associates along with cash registers, not necessarily, Taft says. "Sales associates won't go away in the new retail paradigm, their roles will simply evolve for more customer service focused responsibilities."

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Fascinating Facts About U.S. Currency
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J.C. Penney's Latest Leap: Retailer to Ditch Cash Registers, Cashiers

We work for it. We wish for it. We save it. We spend it. We gain it. We lose it. Above all, we need it. Yes, money certainly does make the world go round.

In America, that money takes the form of paper bills (printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing) and coins (produced by the U.S. Mint). However, the coins that jingle in your pocket and the bills you stuff in your wallet today are far different from the ones originally produced in the late 1700s.

As you would expect, over the last 200+ years our currency has seen many, many changes -- both big and small. That's a lot of U.S. money trivia to keep up with! So, WalletPop set out to uncover the most interesting tidbits about American currency and share our favorites with you.

Read our questions and answers to discover 10 fascinating facts about U.S. currency.

                               -By Vicki Passmore

That depends on the denomination of the note. Here are the average lifespans according to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (or the BEP):


$1 bill - 22 months
$5 bill - 16 months
$10 bill -18 months
$20 bill - 24 months
$50 bill - 55 months
$100 bill - 89 months


Bills that get worn out from everyday use are taken out of circulation and replaced. Coins usually survive in circulation for about 25 years.

Just under half of the notes printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are $1 notes. In fiscal year 2009, the exact percentage was 42.3%.

Martha Washington is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note. It appeared on the face of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1886 and 1891, and the back of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1896.

No portraits of African Americans have appeared on paper money, but commemorative coins were issued in the 1940s bearing the images of George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, followed more recently by the release of a Jackie Robinson coin. Paper money does bear the signatures of four African American men who served as Registers of the Treasury (Blanche K. Bruce, Judson W. Lyons, William T. Vernon, and James C. Napier) and one African American woman who served as Treasurer of the United States (Azie Taylor Morton).

The largest bill ever printed was the $100,000 bill; it was actually a Gold Certificate issued in 1934. These notes were used for transactions between Federal Reserve banks and were not circulated among the general public. President Woodrow Wilson was depicted on the bill.

A mile of pennies laid out is $844.80. By this standard, America is about $2.5 million wide, coast to coast.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco describes what this motto means and how it came into use:

"E Pluribus Unum" is used on many of our country's seals and most of our currency and coins. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued a three-dollar bill bearing the motto, "Exitus in Dubio Est," which translates to "The Outcome Is in Doubt." Despite congressional pessimism about the war, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson proposed the more prophetic motto, "E Pluribus Unum" -- "One From Many." The motto first appeared on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. The Great Seal, however, didn't appear on U.S. currency until 1902.

The so-called "all-seeing eye" that sits atop the pyramid on dollar bills was included as a reflection of divine providence. This was not the only option that was considered to fulfill that desired theme. A depiction of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness was also discussed as a possibility.

Surprise! Our so-called "paper currency" is actually not paper, but is made of cotton/linen material. It consists of a 75% cotton / 25% linen blend with silk fibers running through it. If it were made of paper, it would fall apart if you accidentally left it in your pants pocket and sent it for a whirl in your washing machine.

As we mentioned before, accidents happen. Fortunately, our "paper currency" is built to take quite a beating. The BEP says it would take 4,000 double folds (first forward, and then backwards) before a note will tear.

According to the BEP, it is. Its website explains: "The BEP redeems partially destroyed or badly damaged currency as a free public service. Every year the U.S. Treasury handles approximately 30,000 claims and redeems mutilated currency valued at over $30 million. Experts examine damaged currency and can approve the issuance of a Treasury check for the value of the currency determined to be redeemable."

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But there's a rub when it comes to the wholesale elimination of cash registers in stores, says Natt Fry, senior executive of Accenture's Retail Practice.

"Retailers still need cash tills because a large percentage of their customers use cash, especially the unbanked consumers," he tells DailyFinance.

Still, in the future, "All other transactions can, and will be, conducted using either the retailer's mobile device or the customer's," Fry predicts.





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