D-day v2.0 15 February 1971

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D-day v2.0 15Feb1971

At Sweda we were much assisted in achieving sales by the the introduction of a new decimal currency. £1 equalled 20 shilling and each shilling had 12d (pence), so 240 pennies in the £ – now we had 100p

This meant that all existing cash registers needed to be either modified or replaced to fit the new coinage.

Too many NCR users were fobbed off by the company’s sales force suggesting their tills would be changed on the first morning. We had to patiently explain that perhaps the mechanics needed to go to BHS, M&S, Woolworth and other multiples first. Each register would take say twenty minutes and there were hundreds of them. (Intriguing that two of the three named are no more!). Some customers still didn’t get it, but there was more than enough business to go around from those who did.

Sweda invented ‘Keyset’ which allowed the retailers to make the switch themselves on D-day morning. It had one downside in that the register needed a modification, after which until the big day it used not £sd but just shillings and pence. This proved acceptable to many.

Presentation set of the new decimal coins

I arranged to run a series of decimalisation talks for local retailers. We explained the timetable, showed the new coins and talked about how we could help. I recall part of my speech was to question the Decimal Currency Board’s pronouncement that we should not fear the vague translation of old pence to new pence, because on average they would cancel each other out. However, mathematically 2d would be 0.83p, so the nearest coin was 1p or 0.17p too much, 9d was 3.75p that converted to 3½p or 4p – losing or gaining ¼p.

I used to point out the reason my wife and I would stop at two children was because ‘on average’ every third child born in the world was Chinese. Or described the six-foot tall guy who crossed a river that was ‘on average’ three-feet deep and drowned in the eight-foot bit.

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