Your questions answered on UK based, retail Point of Sale (POS) systems
What is a retail POS system?
POS stands for Point of Sale. Most POS systems today are electronic, making them EPOS (an Electronic Point of Sale). Sometimes the term ‘EPOS’ refers to just the physical hardware, sometimes to the wider system that it is part of.
It’s implied by the name that electronic POS has some type of computerisation built-in and that if they are a ‘system’ that they link to other tills and/or computers, so that they can assist with inventory management and the synchronisation of stock between a retailer’s shop(s) and their website(s).
How do you set up a retail POS system?
Your POS provider will normally do almost all of the technical set-up for you, providing EPOS till hardware if needed – and if they are good partners, they will also provide advice and high-quality training.
Once you have implemented the system by created or imported products, then you are up and running with your stock under control and your sales available for reporting and analysis. In addition, you now have the potential to keep your website stock position accurate.
Most systems do this via another company’s software (i.e. a third-party piece of software). Better still however, a few systems have their own fully integrated software which auto creates products for you on websites and then keeps the stock position accurate, avoiding the cumbersome third-party stage.
How do you implement a retail POS system?
If you have the data in a suitable spreadsheet then you simply need to ensure that all staff fully understand the new system; then import the data and start moving forwards from there.
If you’re loading the data manually then you can start by, say, adding in 20 products per day. Products known to the system, along with unknown products, can usually all be sold via your new till. Over time, all your products will be in the system and your sales info captured.
If you have selected a system that specialises in handling variants, then the whole process of implementing and later running the system will be a lot more accurate and take a lot less time/effort.
How do you manage your barcode labels in a retail POS system?
Depending upon the system you select, you can either auto-produce your own barcode/pricing labels or use manufacturers barcode labels – there are pros and cons of each approach.
Producing your own barcode/pricing labels (especially for products with multiple variants, such as clothing/footwear) is a very time-consuming job if done manually, so it’s vital to ensure your system auto-generates the labels you need.
There is one extra thing to look for here. Barcode labels sometimes come off products in the shop – it’s ‘easy’ to take the correct money for the item, but if you want an accurate stock system, it’s vital that you know exactly which item and its variants is being sold. If you don’t, then very quickly your stock numbers become inaccurate, you will over/under sell on the web, you cannot spot theft and your sales figures cannot be relied upon to re-order or transfer.
This is a serious pitfall. To avoid it, check out the EPOS till software you are being offered; good till software will quickly and easily let staff identify the exact item being sold. This is not the easy matter as it sounds. Some staff will not know the product being purchased, so with only a little information (e.g. it’s a jacket from Levi’s) they need to be able to identify the item and its relevant variants.
However, what you definitely don’t want at a till is a long, long list of products in all their variants – this could be scores or hundreds of items. Unless it’s a fairly short list, staff will frequently make mistakes identifying the product and picking the right variant combination. Alternatively, a more specialist system will not show long lists of individual variants but instead will first show the overall product, followed by a short, clear list of its variants (e.g. first sizes and then colours). This specialist approach is by far the best way to solve a problem that otherwise undermines your whole system.
Why should you get a POS system?
POS systems revolutionise retail businesses in two main ways.
The first is efficiency – inventory management becomes automated as you scan sales in, and any websites are continually updated with current stock positions.
The second is sales growth – let’s face it… no retailer sells on multiple websites and manually manages to keep their ever-changing stock position correct. A retail POS system lets you grow your sales channels and shops in a manageable way, and gives you the reporting information to see what works and what doesn’t.
When should you invest in a retail POS solution?
The short answer is… when you deem the price of a POS system to be outweighed by the efficiency and sales growth benefits of the appropriate system.
If a retail POS system saves you an hour or two of yours/staff time per day, or grows your sales by 10 – 25% (or both!) … it’s worthy of very serious consideration for what amounts to a few pounds cost per day for the right system.
Which POS company should you purchase your retail POS system from?
It is absolutely paramount to do your research, because every retail POS system differs massively in their ease-of-use and functionality.
If you have multi-variant products (if you sell clothing, footwear, sportswear or schoolwear then you definitely do) you need to find a variant specialist system, rather than trying to adapt a generalist system.
Some POS solutions are built for hospitality, most are built for retail generally, and very, very few POS solutions are built specifically around the needs of retailers who have products that come in multiple variations…
… Top to Toe EPOS is one of those very, very few!