A point-of-sale (POS) system can return your investment by speeding the checkout process and giving you visibility into your inventory flow. Here are some things you should think about as you plan for your retail store point-of-sale system.
Supports Your Model
Whether you have a standalone store or a chain — or plan to expand from one location — is the first decision point for point-of-sale software. Not all products support multistore operations. If you do have multiple locations, your POS application must be fully configured to keep track of store numbers. Otherwise you can’t track sales from store to store.
Fits Your Niche
The POS software must come with all the attributes needed by your type of business. For examples, apparel (or soft goods) retailers need to track inventory not just by store-keeping unit, or SKU, but also by the size and color of each garment.
Hard-goods retailers, such as pharmacies or hardware stores, are different from soft-goods, but similar to one another in their requirements when breaking down sales: Items are commonly tracked by Department, by Class (“Vitamin C”), then Subclass (“Natural Vitamin C”) and Subclass (“Size”). Restaurateurs have an entirely different way of tracking sales. Read Tips on Buying POS for Restaurants for details.
The software for your retail POS system needs to be set up to segment and store data according to the classification hierarchy that matches your type of goods. That’s why price-quote sites for POS systems want to know what type of store you operate.
A POS network plugs into a database application that stores information about your business. If you don’t already have a database, you’ll need to add one. Most POS software vendors work with standard database products; a vendor may support one database product or several. If he database you use to collect and analyze all your data uses an open, nonproprietary data format, you’ll be able to transfer your existing business data if you decide to switch POS systems. (Some vendors offer proprietary data formats that can’t easily be exported to keep you tied to their system.) Choosing a standard format also lets you use third-party reporting and data analysis products.
Features that Let You Grow
If your operation is smaller, you won’t necessarily be able to take full advantage of all the POS system features when they are first installed — but you’ll eventually reap the benefits of many of the features.
For example, if you’re the sole proprietor, with no employees, you don’t need to standardize or document everything, because you know every item in your inventory and where it is. But as soon as you add a second person, you have a problem.
Your POS system will, in effect, package your business knowledge, making it possible to expand, to franchise, and to someday sell your business.
As you grow, you’ll learn to take advantage of such capabilities as allocation algorithms, labor, forecasting, and markdown projections (comparing the loss you will take if you mark down an item to sell versus the cost of continuing to warehouse it).