Your POS Shopping List

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The decision to buy a new point-of-sale system (or upgrade to a different model) is a huge decision. And not an easy one.

The retailers who gave us insight for this story spent a great deal of time – sometimes even more than a year – researching the various systems out there to see which ones met their needs. Nancy Cassidy of Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Mass., says they also interviewed several retailers they knew who were running different systems to get unbiased opinions.

And with prices ranging from $1,500 to $2,000 for single units to upwards of $75,000 for a complete POS system with all the bells and whistles, it is probably one of the most important financial decisions a retailer can make.

With that in mind, we asked what retailers should think about when looking at making this purchase, as well as what additional questions our interviewees wished they would have asked during the process.

For the folks at Del’s Garden Center in Spencer, Iowa, speed, inventory control, flexibility and standardization of reporting were the key elements for a new system. “In our store we have the touch-screen checkouts and they have sped up our checkouts considerably,” says Todd Brockshus, who adds they opted for CounterPoint software. “I actually wish on busy days everyone used credit cards because they are so much quicker than making change for a customer paying cash.”

For inventory control, Del’s focuses on the six-week report to understand how many items are sold for planning purposes. He’s also excited to track average ticket on a weekly basis. So it’s key, Brockshus says, to think about what reports you’d like to run on your system and ask a POS seller about those capabilities.

Starting From Within

Along with interviewing multiple garden centers running different systems, Cassidy says decision makers at Weston also looked internally. They interviewed key managers about what they’d like to get out of a new system.

That helped them set up their criteria, which included better inventory control, a way to measure the business through metrics and reporting, technical support, an easy-to-learn user interface and a good credit processing system. They opted to go with Activant’s system.

Support is a great point, too. POS companies offer varying degrees of technical support, and if you’d like someone to be available 24/7 to answer questions or get you back up and running after a power outage or other emergency, you’d better make sure you know what the different companies provide.

Weston also is rolling out its loyalty program this month to capture more customer information and provide rewards. “One thing that also interested us in the program is that we could offer redemption points,” Cassidy says. “With Activant they have a module that allows you to track dollars spent and turn them into points that are redeemed via gift card. It’s a reason for them to keep that card in their wallet.”

More Helpful Advice

Jordan Graffin of K&W Greenery in Janesville, Wis., provided a few more topics to keep in mind during POS system research, including:

• Security of handling customer information (and how that relates to the POS you’re about to purchase);
• The length of time a system will keep customer data and inventory information;
• Whether the system is created specifically for garden centers or adapted from another market;
• If there is the option for a loyalty program within the system; and
• Whether or not gift cards can be incorporated into the system.

“If a system doesn’t incorporate them, doing it on your own can be very costly,” Graffin says. “Ours are currently in-house and it has become a huge savings.”

Jennifer Polanz is a freelance writer with Grasshopper Freelance. She can be eMailed at jepolanz@gmail.com.

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