Bitcoin has a lot of potential for retailers, we’ve heard. It allows merchants to bypass the big transaction fees of credit card companies, it can make payments more secure, faster, easier, and helps protect customers from identity theft and fraud. But in this early stage in Bitcoin’s growth, acceptance has still sparse and the utilization of Bitcoin is far from mainstream still.
So when Manhattan got its first in-store Bitcoin ATM, I rushed to get the scoop.
Meet Elizabeth DuBois, store owner of Flat128, the British-Vintage merchandise store in the heart of Greenwich Village. From genuine British items like umbrellas, dresses and books, to vintage cameras, jewelry, and décor, Flat128 has it all.
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She began accepting Bitcoin earlier this year after she took the first big step towards Bitcoin integration; having an in-store Bitcoin ATM. She started her store last year when she returned to New York City from studying in London.
“A lifelong dream of mine was always to open my own store, be my own boss. […] When I moved back, I just thought, it’d be the best timing actually to pursue a dream.”
But alongside her entrepreneurial spirit is a drive to try something new – something like Bitcoin. So when her close friend, Matt Russell, Chief Marketing Officer of PYC, suggested putting a Bitcoin ATM in her store, she went for it.
“People are really excited about using Bitcoin[.]”
Matt Russell told me more about PYC’s goals as a BTM outreach company. After installing a SkyHook BTM into a store in Albany, NY, Flat128 was their first store in New York City, with a Lamassu BTM . Their goal is to grow Bitcoin as a mainstream retail option.
“It’s just regular shopping. […] Now, we’re throwing a BTM in a location that you’re familiar with – let’s get you familiar with Bitcoin.”
However, BTMs are still being held at arms-length by merchants – and for understandable reasons: BTMs are still massively expensive. For example, Robocoin dropped its price on their cheapest machine from $20,000 to $15,000 and others still $20,000 and $35,000. Retailers and merchants simply cannot afford that kind of overhead and wait for years of in-store exchanges to break-even, while the BTM companies may also take a small percentage as well.
This is also on top of the technical difficulties that these machines have – when I came to Flat128 to shoot the video, their BTM was out of service and was still not operational by the time I left. Store owners who are already weary of Bitcoin are just not going to want to deal with their BTM investments to crash. These also depend on internet connection and that just adds to security and cost concerns.
While Flat128 took a leap of faith – and certainly in the right direction – it’s going to take a lot more development and maturity for Bitcoin to make its way into the game on Main St.
What do you think about Flat128’s Bitcoin use? Comment below!
Images from Shutterstock.