Gap, Bed Bath, other merchants join mobile wallet service

Mon Oct 1, 2012 6:11pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Retailers including Gap Inc and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc have joined a mobile payments network that intends to battle similar services from Google Inc and other companies.

The Merchant Customer Exchange, a confederation of retailers, has already attracted Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Target Corp and Japan's 7-Eleven Inc since announcing plans in August.

The service, also called MCX, is at an early stage and has yet to set a launch date. On Monday, MCX told Reuters it had signed up several new members. In addition to Gap and Bed Bath, they include Dunkin' Brands Group Inc, Dillards Inc and convenience store operator Sheetz Inc.

Mobile payments are expected to rise nearly four-fold to more than $1.3 trillion annually by 2017, according to a recent report by Juniper Research.

The technology allows shoppers to turn their cellphones into devices that can be used to pay for goods and services. Analysts tout it as a promising area as retailers seek ways to make checkout easier and streamline the shopping experience.

MCX is intended to match similar services from Google which began operating its own system last year on its Android devices. The retailer-led initiative is seeing "tremendous interest" from merchants of all sizes, said Dodd Roberts, an MCX executive.

The group has 21 publicly traded members so far.

"One of the reasons why there has not been widespread adoption of mobile payments is because the experience is not yet seamless for consumers," a spokesman for MCX said. "We think (MCX) will help in adoption of mobile payments."

The founders of MCX hope the burgeoning membership, including some big-name retailers, could give mobile payment the critical mass it needs to take off.

In August, Starbucks Corp announced a deal to use startup Square Inc to process payments at its U.S. coffee shops.

Industry experts said that move could threaten established payment processors and Wal-Mart, Target and 7-Eleven followed with word that they were developing MCX.

(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Chicago; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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