Mannings and Watsons are considering allowing customers to withdraw cash using EPS facilities, provided they buy something, joining other retailers who are cashing in on the shrinking number of bank outlets. Mannings, which has more than 230 stores, has been talking with EPS 'for months' about providing the service in all its outlets with any customer purchase, a spokeswoman said yesterday. Watsons would look into the feasibility of providing cash withdrawal services in its 180 stores and would do it 'if there is a need', a spokeswoman said. Circle K's 130 convenience stores in December started allowing customers to withdraw up to HK$500 when using EPS for any purchases. Rival 7-Eleven has yet to follow suit. A spokeswoman for Circle K said all its 250 Hong Kong outlets would provide the cash withdrawal service before the end of next month, joining supermarket operators ParknShop and Wellcome, which have provided the service for years. ParknShop and Wellcome allow withdrawals of up to HK$500 on purchases of HK$50 or more. Banks have been criticised for not taking their social responsibilities seriously, with the three note-issuing banks - HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of China (Hong Kong) - cutting the number of branches by 27 per cent, from 580 to 422, during the past four years. Pressed by legislators and social workers, the banking industry has been exploring ways to alleviate the impact of fewer branches, including enabling cash withdrawal through retailers' EPS facilities and redesigning ATM machines to be more user-friendly. Other proposals, including allowing Hongkong Post outlets and public housing estate management offices to handle some banking services, have received a cold shoulder from the government. Mannings is concerned, however, how its information technology system would accommodate the cash withdrawal service, according to its spokeswoman, who would not provide a timetable for a decision. 7-Eleven, on the other hand, might have difficulty providing the service because some of its 700 outlets are franchised. Wellcome, ParknShop, Mannings, Watsons, Circle K and 7-Eleven said people would have to make a purchase to withdraw cash.