Looking for a POS for a small retail store
April 21, 2012 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on opening a retail store. I've done some research on the different POS software systems available, but I want to know what works in the real world.

I'm looking for a POS solution that would be great for the front of the store (connected to a PC, receipt printer, cash drawer, scanner). However, it is just as important that it be able to track inventory, etc.

The store is going to be carrying mainly food related items, including fresh meat, deli items, & cheese. It's going to be a small store with only one register.

While I want to get something that is not too expensive, I feel that it would be worth it to pay more to have a system that will make ringing up customers & managing the inventory easier.

Let me know what works for you. Also, if you have any suggestions for credit card processing, I'd appreciate it.
posted by toddst to Work & Money (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I, personally, work in a bike shop and we use MerchantOS. It's web-based, versatile, intuitive, well-supported, and does everything you mentioned needing to do. I'm not sure what it costs per month, but it's apparently inexpensive enough that we switched over about a year and a half ago in good conscience. Before that we were using Microsoft POS, which sucked sucked sucked. Avoid it unless you want to hate your life.
posted by Chutzler at 8:30 AM on April 21, 2012

I can't tell you what POS system to use. But I can tell you that if you want to use your POS system for inventory management, you will need to start out with a VERY tight policy on how you handle waste, or your computer will just constantly be wrong about what you actually have/are missing. So, if someone sees a moldy block of cheese (for instance), they should pick it up, ring it into the register immediately while still holding the item, choose whatever method you have of denoting that it's a waste product, and then throw it away. Anything else will result in forgetting or carelessness and then your fancy inventory management POS will be useless.
posted by Night_owl at 8:33 AM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

I like https://squareup.com/register - it is great when starting, as their business model is for the credit card transaction cost (which was lower than the terminal rental and bank transaction fee). The cost surround the iPad, cash drawer and printer - when compared to other terminals were also low. What I like best is it's speed and ease of use - and yet good reporting.
posted by jmh at 8:38 AM on April 21, 2012

Chutzer & jmh- Great ideas! While these are more expensive in the long run, they'll certainly keep opening costs lower.

Night Owl - Thanks for the advice. I would've never thought of that.
posted by toddst at 9:02 AM on April 21, 2012

If all of my television-watching is correct, there are newer and sexier ways of handling POS and credit card processing (iPad swipers like jmh mentioned, etc.) but if you decide to go the old-school route with a keypad terminal, I can recommend a card processing company with whom I'm had excellent rates and customer service.

If you have a Costco Executive Membership ($110/yr), you are eligible for credit card processing through Elavon, with excellent rates. At least, they're excellent in Canada-- you might want to shop around your US options just to be sure). MeMail me if you want more details. (Also-- congratulations on the new business!)
posted by mireille at 9:53 AM on April 21, 2012

The market is flooded with used POS hardware and software...
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:08 AM on April 21, 2012

i would be very wary of the square POS, particularly if you are going to carrying a significant number of SKUs. the lack of monthly fees and contract is a great convenience, but the overall credit card rates are not nearly as good as you can get through a traditional processor. (we just use square as a back-up processor.)

when i last looked at switching point-of-sale systems, merchantos was at the top of our list of off-the-shelf solutions. the pricing is reasonable, the functionality is pretty rich (and now there's an API for it) and it's actively being developed and pushed forward. (we were using checkout for the mac, for which development had stalled.)

the recommended card processor (element payment systems) for merchantos also has reasonable rates. it's interchange-plus, not tiered or 'cost'-plus. one knock i have against them is that their early termination fee is unusually high.
posted by jimw at 10:10 AM on April 21, 2012

jimw - thanks for information on square and merchantos. It is very much appreciated. I think that I am going to plan on starting up with merchantos.

Mr Yuck - yeah, craigslist is full of POS systems, but I don't know about the quality. Building the machine is simple, it's the quality of the software that I care about.

mireille - thanks for the info. I'll look into Elavon, and get in touch with you if I have any questions.
posted by toddst at 11:41 AM on April 21, 2012

We use Intuit's POS in our small food/gift store. We track inventory and waste. It seems to work fine.

Hit me with a PM if you want to discuss it in detail.

posted by humboldt32 at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2012

I would not recommend an online POS, unless it has a module of some kind that allows you to run while offline. Or you have a really reliable internet service provider, or a backup ISP.

(Hardware hint: if you are using things like USB scanners, printers and cash drawers, either plug them directly into the computer, or use a powered hub.)
posted by gjc at 5:45 PM on April 21, 2012

I really want to echo what gjc said. We used the Micros POS (I don't recommend it but it's easy to use from the cashier and manager perspective) at my Very Large Famous Toy Company's retail outlets and when we had power blackouts we were gone.

So, the solution was to have cash drawers which had keyed entry or were otherwise accessible during an outage and to have old-school manual credit card imprinters and slips as backup to the POS terminal. These things are very cheap and they are life-savers when things go wrong and you need to make sales (potentially also Black Friday, Christmas Eve, and other high-shopping days when online POS systems get overwhelmed).
posted by librarylis at 9:35 PM on April 22, 2012

librarylis & gjc - I can't thank you enough for the power/Internet down back up ideas. humboldt32 - If we go with Intuit, I might be sending you a PM.

Thanks again everyone for your input. It's impossible to mark any one or two answers as a favorite since pretty much everyone was a great help on this question!
posted by toddst at 11:42 AM on April 24, 2012

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