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How Not to Get Burned When Choosing a POS System For Your Retail Store

Aug 27, 2008
When choosing a point of sale/inventory control system for your retail store, it is important that you get beyond the glitz and the flash of the salesperson's demo. There are vital steps that all retailers should take to make sure that the system the buy fits the needs of the store, both from an operations and a merchandising (reporting) perpsective.

When working with vendors who want to show you a point-of-sale (POS) system, you'll find that they all do similar things when doing a demonstration of their product. All of them like to show how quickly a sale can be rung up. All of them will show how quickly you can add inventory to their system. Many will show you how easily screens can be modified or changed to suit your business. Of course, they are showing you what they believe to be the most important features in a POS system. Really, they're just showing you what they do well.

Hours and hours of practice and scripting go into that demo. POS vendors work hard to impress you with their newest and coolest features and try to develop a presentation that showcases their finest attributes. Unfortunately, if you get caught up in the show, you could end up spending a fortune on a system that does not do what you need it to do.

Any POS system out there can ring up a sale. Any of them allow you to add inventory, customers, vendors, employees, and more. So how do you make sure that you get what you need in the system?

You look first at your own business. Look for the "curveballs," the processes or procedures within your own retail store that might be difficult to replicate in a system. Great examples of this include special orders (how do you record them, process them, sell them, etc.? This is an especially tricky area, so include all the variables), wholesaling, employee sales, and manufacturing/kits.

If your store requires any of the above processes, make sure you figure out how you want it done, and then go over that in detail with the POS provider. Most importantly, make them show you how it would work within their system as part of the demo. Never take the word of the salesperson who says, "Yeah, we could do something like that."

Reporting is another area where many retailers find themselves sorry that they chose the system they did. During the demo, the POS provider will again attempt to impress you with incredible reports and maybe even show you how you can design your own. This does not mean that you can get anything you ever wanted! The best way to do this is to take blank pieces of paper, draw the reports you want (make sure you indicate how you want the report sorted and subtotaled, and if you want it filtered for certain data), and ask the vendor to create those for you. Some retailers tell us that they hadn't given that much thought before, but they are sure glad that they went through this exercise! Having the right reports in a POS system is how you turn the cost of a retail system into an investment, and how you make that investment pay for itself!

In summary, make sure that you tell the vendor the oddities, the unusual processes and procedures, and the differentiators in your business. Then make him/her show you how his/her system can be adapted to fit your business model. At that point, the seemingly unending sea of POS vendors will suddenly become very easy to navigate.
About the Author
This guide is presented by SDCR Business Systems, a leading full-service POS corporation in North America. For more information on its retail POS products, go to http://www.retailproexpress.com or http://www.sdcr.com.
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