Despite the fact that Britain is not one of the 15 countries that have adopted the euro, the switch to the single currency on January 1, 2002 is still significant for the UK consumer.
Reflecting the potential demand from euro zone tourists as well as a feeling that it is a sensible preparation for when the UK does join the currency, many retailers will be accepting euros. Once it becomes legal tender across Europe, shoppers will find they can pay for everything from groceries to phone bills using the new currency.
Marks and Spencer already accepts several currencies in its stores, so the change there was inevitable, but other department stores such as John Lewis, Selfridges and Harrods will also welcome it. The Arcadia group, which includes Top Shop, Burton, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins will accept euros across most of its stores. Other major retailers such as WH Smith and Virgin have readied their tills for the changeover, and will be accepting euros too.
One of the more ironic converts is the Dixons Group, which also includes PC World and Curry's electical stores. They will be offering to bill customers in euros, as well as paying suppliers in the currency. This is amusing, as they have seen the business case for it even though their chairman is a prominent figure in the anti euro movement, in his position as treasurer of the lobby group Business for Sterling.
Supermarkets are taking what they see as sensible preparatory measures for a possible British entry into euro land, with the converison of their trolleys to accept euro coins. Among those taking this step are Sainsbury's, Asda Wal-Mart, Safeway, Somerfield and Kwik Save. However, none of these have plans to accept euro in-store until later in 2002.
The Inland Revenue is allowing payment of taxes in euros, as are utility companies such as Orange, British Gas and BT.
The most obvious outlets to feel demand to accept payment in euros are those that cater for large numbers of foreign visitors. The Tussauds Group, the UK's largest operator of tourist attractions, will be accepting them, as will many smaller businesses, particularly in London.
With all of these transactions due to take place, and in response to demand from frequent travellers and others, most UK banks already offer euro-denominated accounts. Unfortunately the terms on these are noticeably worse than comparable sterling accounts, with many charging annual fees and all offering poor interest rates. This probably reflects a lack of competition in this area, so may change as usage of the currency spreads.
This writeup will be updated and moved into the present / past tense as appropriate during 2002. /msg me if you have corrections or additions.
This is the Britain in Europe site, a pro-euro lobby group, so comes with an obvious bias.