I’m Starting a New Business - Cash Register or Point of Sale System?

At POS Plus we are in the business of finding solutions and that means, to be a true solution, it must fit the needs of the retailer. For many startup businesses it comes down to a choice between an electronic cash register (ECR) or a Point of Sale (POS) system.  “Which should I get?” is a common question and there is no single answer as it really begins with the needs of the retailer in question. With some newer businesses, just dealing with the notion of a cash and credit card management system can be a relatively foreign concept and it is easy to be perplexed by the dilemma.

One supposition they are making that is true, is they must employ a “management system” to take in payments, record and track receipts and assist them with management functions and an old cigar box won’t do. This is not about bells and whistles, an overused and trite phrase, to describe honest to goodness tools to help grow business and save time. The choice of ECR or POS system must be viewed more like choosing the right tool than anything else and both tools have come a long way in recent years. Each are more than just a box for storing cash and can be used to easily track sales, allow for coupons, process charges in lightening-speed and accurately keep records. So which option do you choose?

As stated previously, your needs are the priority. You must start by asking yourself, “What do I truly need?”  To answer that question you need to know a number of factors including:

  • The total number of items that you offer or will offer
  • The number of departments you wish to track
  • Current or anticipated volume
  • Is there a need to communicate in real time to other areas or locations?
  • Will coupons need to be processed?
  • Are customer rewards important?
  • How many taxes must you track in how many different ways?
  • What is your current refund policy?
  • What types of payments will you process?
  • How many checkout stands are needed at how many locations?
  • Is inventory tracking important?
  • Do you want help with employee scheduling, shifts and hours, etc.?
  • What other management tools are needed?
  • What is your budget for the ECR or POS system?          

Your understanding of the above questions will make it easier to find the perfect fit for you and you need to be comfortable with the fit because you are going to be using the system for years - not months. Regardless of your choice these solutions are an expensive investment although in recent years they have become more affordable and more reliable. An ECR should last for a decade or two and a good POS system can last for six to eight years if you keep up with updates.

So what are the benefits of both options?

With electronic cash registers a lower initial investment is usually required, but the range can be between $300 and $2000 per unit or more. Also, ECR’s have a longer life expectancy so what they lose in flexibility is made up for in more years of service. Another benefit is that the ECR has come a long way. They are good now at basic reporting functions that were simply not available just a handful of years ago in most models. Also, most models have expanded capabilities, allowing for multiple departments and over 100 specific sku’s. Little training time is also a benefit of ECR’s as most are relatively intuitive and fast, functioning at a high level even when there has been little training. Lastly, although several options such as printers, monitors, coin dispensers and additional cash registers are available, there are limitations and compatibility must be thoroughly explored. This is especially true when credit/debit card readers are integrated into the system.

On the other hand, a POS system is usually a larger monetary investment; however, the investment can ultimately produce a return due to the many benefits and built in tools.  Tracking inventory, reducing shrink, producing comparative sales reports, creating easy to use customer benefit programs, pricing tools, forecasting tools and integrated back office reports are just a few of the standard functions of most POS systems.   Also, there is no concern regarding the number of sku’s or departments.  Current POS systems allow for unlimited amount of items in the system.  If you are looking for your business to grow and need a unit with ultimate flexibility a POS system may be the best fit for your new company.

The best way to determine the system that is best for you is to look at the needs of your retail business and then find the system that meets those needs best. POS Plus is ready and willing to help you find the best match and we have a dedicated team of solution professionals that want to assist you with your search.