Monday, August 8, 2011


Major retailers, including Whole Foods Market, Nordstrom, Gap Inc. (which owns Old Navy and Banana Republic), Anthropologie, Patagonia, Sears and Kmart, have begun offering electronic versions of receipts, either e-mailed or uploaded to password-protected Web sites. And more and more customers, the retailers report, are opting for paperless.

Many people like keeping searchable records on a computer — e-receipts come in handy during tax season, make some returns a snap and are a tidy addition to the e-purchases already stored on countless hard drives. Others see the paper versions as an anachronism, wasteful of resources and as irrelevant as printed bank statements and mutual fund reports.

“As consumers, we’re changing the way we shop,” said Jennifer Miles, who oversees retail systems at VeriFone, which makes checkout technology. “Customers are starting to want electronic receipts.”

Beyond the cost savings and environmental benefit (an estimated 9.6 million trees are cut each year for receipts in the United States, according to allEtronic, a digital receipt company), the e-receipts present marketing opportunities for retailers. Gap, Nordstrom and many other stores, for example, add the customer’s e-mail address to a mailing list for follow-up offers.

That marketing potential is a drawback to some customers, said Robert Cohen, vice president of retail at Patagonia, which began offering e-receipts nine months ago. “People are very protective of their e-mail in-box,” he said, so only about one-third of Patagonia’s customers choose an electronic receipt.

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