Point of sale (POS) software is software that retailers use to calculate sales and operate the cash drawer; it is the computerized cash register. Point of sale software adds up the sales total, figures the state sales tax, calculates the change back from the amount tendered, and automatically adjusts the store's inventory levels to debit the amount of inventory sold.
Point of sale software packages can vary considerably in capability, so the savvy retailer will want to assess their own situation and needs before making a selection decision. Inventory management capabilities suitable to a multi-store chain are probably overkill for a single boutique store and the care and feeding it would require is probably not worth the additional effort.
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At a minimum, your point of sale system should handle sales, manage your inventory database, run a barcode scanner and allow you the capability of querying your inventory and sales database in a flexible way.
Make sure your point of sale system can search your inventory database not only on item description and SKU (stock keeping unit - a unique ID you assign to all items you carry), but by category, vendor and keywords. Without the keyword search capability, all your employees must know and remember the exact SKU for every product; a keyword search informs your employees that the hair bows for baby girls, for instance, are entered as 'girls hair bows' and not 'hair bows for girls'.
Data storage is cheap these days, so your point of sale software should be able to track and record the date-time of every sale ever made in your store. This information is useful for a number of different analytical tasks. For instance, are sales slowing down for tabletop fountains because they are just 'over', or because their sales always drop in the summer months? The most unexpected items turn out to be 'seasonal', and your point of sale software should be able to help you determine what demand is likely to be.
If you are purchasing your first point of sale system, it is vital that it be able to export your information in a universal format. This is philosophically akin to the premarital agreement — you must plan ahead for the day when this system no longer serves your needs and you will want to be able to easily move your entire inventory data and sales history data to your new system.
Purchase your point of sale system from a company that has a reasonably stable history and expected future; orphan software that breaks down or starts garbling your data can cause enormous unplanned-for expenses.
A poorly-designed or simply ill-suited point of sale system can be a daily management headache; a good one that fits well with your business can be your most valuable 'employee'.