Point of Sale Software - Friend or Foe
The wrong point of sale software can make your work life a nightmare; the right one can make it a dream. What can you expect sales software system and how do you pick out which one is right for you?
Easy is Better
The most sophisticated point of sale software in the world is going to be worthless if your staff can't figure it out, or worse, think they understand it and use it improperly.
Remember, the typical user of the program is a high schooler, or a high school graduate. While they have used computers since babyhood, you really cannot expect them to employ mature adult reasoning at this time in their life. The true computer geeks are probably not applying to work at your retail store; many of your potential staffers can't balance a checkbook or do simple math. (You may think I'm kidding, but I'm not.)
The system interface needs to be as obvious as possible. If it requires entering many commands at the keyboard, remove the system from consideration - every keyboard command required is another error waiting to happen. Point and click, barcode scanning, window-based invoicing are must-haves.
Most point of sale software systems on the market today also offer complete inventory control and management tools. Make use of these tools and restocking/destocking, taking physical inventory and managing your stock flow becomes much easier.
The more powerful systems will allow you to manage inventory across multiple stores in a wide area; if you are just starting out with one store, this is probably too much system for you, and the added power probably comes with additional complexity to the system that runs up against our 'easy is better' formulation above.
For a single store, you need to be able to enter and track inventory by SKU (Stock Keeping Unit - a unique identifier for a particular good), by description, by vendor, by manufacturer (not always the same as the vendor), by category (books, calendars, socks...) and by sales history. Entering new inventory may be a task you want handled on the sales floor, or by sales managers, but the system should be able to handle either.
The same software can and does keep track of inventory items down to the level of the individual sale - that is, you can query an item's sales history and find out the time and invoice number of each sale of that item. Sales history is very useful for discerning trends. Are some items mainly weekend sales? Are they seasonal? (The most unlikely products are seasonal. Lace tableclothes? They only move in the spring. Why? Who knows.)
Cash In and Out
One of the most important features of your point of sale software, of course, is balancing the cash drawer. At the end of the day or shift, a 'z-reading' from the register will give you a read-out of how much money exchanged hands during the shift, and how it was tendered, whether via cash, credit card or check. The z-reading tells you how much cash ought to be in the cash register, and how much credit ought to be flowing directly into your bank account.
Use this reading to balance the cash drawer. If the drawer is over or under the amount shown on the z-reading, mistakes are being made in making change. If the drawer is consistently under what the z-reading shows, you may have an employee theft problem that needs addressing.
Your point of sale software will come with management functions that cannot be accessed from the cash register log-in. These functions include inventory tracking, hourly sales monitoring, invoice and inventory adjustments and other functions that you would not necessarily want the person manning the cash register to have access to. Make sure the system you select allows for the exporting of inventory activity information to standard spreadsheet formats for easy incorporation into other programs.
You may have the best point of sale software in the world, but if the software provider goes out of business and you are left with an orphan system, you may regret not purchasing a less capable package from a more stable vendor.
Buy the most system you can afford; it's far easier to grow into your point of sale software than to outgrow it.