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Options for the Unbanked

BY Connie Gentry

Miami-based NovoPayment has partnered with Sambil Malls Group to introduce the Sambil Visa Gift Card at Sambil Mall in Caracas, Venezuela. This was the first time that a prepaid, reloadable payment card has been offered by a Latin American shopping center.

Sambil Mall Caracas is one of the largest retail properties in that country, with 3 million sq. ft. and 500 stores.

The Sambil Mall Group and NovoPayment plan to deploy the gift-card program at Sambil’s shopping centers in Valencia, Margarita, Maracaibo, San Cristobal, Barquisimeto and Punto Fijo later this year.

What makes the introduction of prepaid, reloadable payment cards most compelling is the unique demographic profile of Latin American consumers. Retailers operating stores in Latin America appreciate the need for this payment option, and any retailer contemplating expansion into that region will welcome the arrival of prepaid cards.

NovoPayment has estimated that in the 15 Latin American countries there are more than 300 million unbanked consumers who would qualify for a prepaid card.

“Latin America’s demographics are so different than in the U.S.—there are huge income disparities and a large sector of the population has had to rely exclusively on cash transactions,” stated Anabel Perez, president and CEO of NovoPayment. “Between 65% and 70% of the population does not have a bank account, but this same group accounts for 45% of the purchasing power.”

Prepaid, reloadable payment cards provide an instrument that the unbanked population group can use to establish financial credibility and “evidence of cash flow,” Perez explained to Chain Store Age. “This tool will permit consumers to apply for credit at retail stores or loans at banks. It gives them access to POS systems and ATM machines and is improving their way of life.”

From the retailer’s perspective, it will change the way they do business, providing a way to establish loyalty programs and potentially gain more knowledge of their consumer base.

NovoPayment implemented Latin America’s first mobile peer-to-peer (P2P) funds-transfer program using short-message service (SMS) and the first prepaid general-purpose debit cards not to require bank accounts.

The solution for mobile payments is particularly relevant because, Perez noted, “Latin America has a high rate of cell-phone penetration. Sixty-one percent of the population has a cell phone and 95% of those cell-phone owners are part of the prepaid-card base.”

The maintenance fee for a NovoPayment reloadable-payment card is about one-third the cost of a basic bank account.

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Survey: Businesses want to go green, but afraid of costs

BY CSA STAFF

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. According to a survey of 2,500 business professionals by Office Depot, half of all respondents are interested in making their offices “greener.”

While 50% of those surveyed said they’d like to have a greener office, more than half (55%) said they did not associate going green with saving money.

According to Yalmaz Siddiqui, director of environmental strategy for Office Depot, There is actually a range of cost scenarios that a business could face when deciding to go green, he explained. Some choices, like remanufactured cartridges, cost less; some require an upfront investment but come with long term cost savings, like compact fluorescent lights; some products entail no price difference; and some green ideas do cost more. The trick is to understand the different options and not assume that going green will always result in higher costs.

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Toys ‘R’ Us to be exclusive retailer of ‘Soul Bubbles’ Nintendo DS game

BY CSA STAFF

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. Toys “R” Us will be the exclusive retailer of Soul Bubbles, a new game for Nintendo DS created by Eidos Interactive.

“Creative and refreshing, Soul Bubbles is a unique game that DS owners won’t want to miss,” said Robert Lindsey, evp of sales and marketing for Eidos Inc. “This is a charming story combined with gameplay that pushes the capabilities of the Nintendo DS is sure to engage all puzzle gaming fans.”

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