Why printed receipts still matter

Printed receipts are important for consumers and retailers alike. Here’s why.

Holiday spending is expected to increase as much as 4 percent this year. That may not sound like much, but Americans are on track to spend a record $960 billion celebrating the December holidays. For retailers and consumers alike, printed receipts can help make the season brighter.

Traditionally, Black Friday heralds the start of the holiday season, but for many, holiday spending is already in full swing, and it won’t stop until January, after the last gifts have been opened and any returns have been made. And despite what some anti-receipt advocates say, consumers overwhelmingly prefer to receive printed receipts with their purchases instead of digital receipts.

“In our recent consumer survey, we found that 76 percent of folks want some form of a printed receipt, or at least the option to choose a printed receipt,” says Andrea Forehand, Domtar’s director of sales for thermal POS. “Skip the Slip legislation has come up twice in California, and we’ve been successful in lobbying to prevent that legislation from becoming law because people do want the choice.”

There are a number of benefits to having printed receipts, especially at the holidays.


Better Budgeting

Paper receipts can help keep holiday spending in check. When you hit the stores on Black Friday (or Christmas Eve, if you’re a last-minute shopper), opt for printed receipts, which you can use to keep track of exactly how much you’ve spent. Compare those numbers to your holiday shopping budget to know when it’s time to stop.

You can also use printed receipts to reconcile your bank and credit card statements to spot errors or fraudulent charges. “I’m one of those old-school people who still takes my credit card statements and reconciles them against my receipts each month,” says Kelley Shepherd, Domtar’s channel marketing manager for converting. “Paper receipts make that so much easier than having to search through my emails.”


Proof of Purchase

Bloomberg recently reported that retail theft is top of mind for many businesses. In fact, the topic was discussed more on earnings calls in Q2 2023 than in any other quarter on record. The National Retail Federation estimates that shrinkage or theft could account for $112.1 billion in losses this year.

Yet retail giant Costco sees very little shrinkage. In fact, its numbers more than 10 times below the national average of 1.6 percent. Part of Costco’s success is due to store layout, bulky items and a members-only model. But also, Costco requires shoppers to show their printed receipts when they exit the store.

“The antenna is definitely up at stores for the holiday season, and they’re going to be watching very closely,” says Shepherd. “Being able to prove your purchase and obtain exchanges or refunds will be really important for consumers as retailers crack down on theft.”


Greater Security and Privacy

Just as retail theft has increased, so has identity theft and computer hacking. Paper receipts are simply more secure than digital receipts, which can be hacked or exploited.

“Personal information, like an email address, that is stored electronically is so easy to steal, and it’s often sold by retailers, so then you end up with a lot of spam email,” says Shepherd. “It’s just one more way for criminals to target people.”


Greater Accessibility

A Domtar survey found that 19 percent of Americans don’t own a smartphone. Many also don’t have a home computer or a printer.

“There are still a lot of people who don’t have access to the internet to get digital receipts,” says Forehand. “And different ages want receipts for different reasons, so we just want people to have the choice to receive a paper receipt so they can access what they need, regardless of age or socioeconomic status.”


A Sustainable Choice

Pulp and paper products remain the most recycled materials on the planet, and that includes printed receipts.

Mike Rapier is executive vice president of Iconex, the world’s largest converter of receipt paper and Domtar’s biggest customer of thermal point-of-sale paper. He’s also the president of the Paper Receipts Converting Association.

“What we want to drive home for consumers is that our product has a full lifecycle to it from a sustainability standpoint,” he explains. “Our industry returns water to the source cleaner than when we found it, and we plant more trees than we use. Our products can be recycled.”

Rapier also points out that many consumers underestimate the carbon footprint of email. “Meanwhile, the carbon footprint and cost of a receipt — including shipping the receipt paper — is much lower than you would expect,” he says. “It’s a safe and inexpensive way to have an accurate record of your transaction.”

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