Choosing the Best POS System for your Nursery and Landscape Supply Store

Getting Started

Choosing the best POS system for your Nursery or Landscape Supply Store involves looking at all the components of a POS system. Modern systems consist of some sort of a computer platform (PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, all-in-one), a variety of special peripheral devices, and a POS software application which ties it all together. iPad POS systems use an iPad (or other tablet computer) in place of the PC and monitor.

Software

Software controls the behavior of any POS system. The software can be divided into four categories: The operating system (OS), the POS application software, the credit card authorization software, and the accounting software.

Operation System – If you have a desktop computer at home, it is most likely classified as a Windows machine, or a Mac. There are other types, of course, but these two vendors comprise the majority of traditional computers in the home market. Microsoft Windows is the leading operating system for home computers. For tablets and laptops, you have more choices.  Apple and Google’s Android operating systems dominate mobile computing.

If you have a small business, you’ll find the largest selection of POS applications if you stay within the windows environment.  Windows 10 is probably the widely used PC operating systems.  Windows 7 is no longer supported by Microsoft, and many POS peripheral vendors no longer support Windows 8, 7 or XP drivers for their hardware.

Point of Sale Software – The POS software adds the retail functionality to the POS system. It provides the user interface and all the features that you’ll use during the operation of your business. Later in this guide, will provide more detail on these features and tell you which ones we think are important.

Credit card processing – Most retail businesses accept credit cards as payment for purchases. Card process may be integrated or non-integrated. Non-integrated payments refers to using a stand alone payment terminal to process a transaction or verify credit authorization. Non-integrated set-ups require you to manual enter the amount into the stand alone terminal - as there is no connection between the terminal and the POS system. Integrated processing refers to where the POS connects with the payment processor and exchanges information. Integrating the credit card payment function can save steps and time during the checkout process.

Accounting

If you use a mechanical cash register, you’re probably familiar with the z-out cash register tape. This paper tape receipt printed out by the register at the end of the day is used to transfer the day’s transaction information to your accounting software or your ledger book.

Many POS software applications offer the ability to integrate with accounting applications. These POS systems can transfer the day’s receipts to your accounting system easily, normally with a few keystrokes or mouse clicks. Integration with an accounting system can eliminate the error-prone and time-consuming, yet necessary step of transferring data to your accounting system.

There are many accounting software packages on the market, many targeted toward small to medium-sized businesses. Three popular ones are:

  1. QuickBooks
  2. Xero
  3. Sage Accounting

The Intuit QuickBooks accounting software product is the leading retail accounting package for small businesses in the US. Many POS software packages offer QuickBooks data exchange functionality which keeps your retail transaction data and your accounting data synchronized. Xero is a newer and rapidly growing web-based accounting solution for small businesses.

POS Hardware

If you are a computer user, you are likely familiar with the common desktop peripherals – the keyboard and mouse. Computer- based POS systems are based on ordinary desktop computers and operating systems, but they have peripherals that are specific to retail POS systems.

Computer – Most POS systems are based on standard desktop computing technology. There are, however, manufacturers/integrators who specialize in producing computers specifically designed for the rigors of day to day retail operation by average retail workers. If you are looking for an all-in-one system, there are variety of vendors that offer solid all-in-one systems. In the retail industry, vendors such as Touch Dynamic and Pioneer Solutions are very popular. You will also want to ensure that you’re using a good surge protector and UPS (battery backup) to prevent power-related crashes.

Display – POS systems need a computer display to present the information. As counter top space is always precious, so you’ll want to minimize the footprint of your POS system. Flat panel monitors are ideal for POS applications.  To further reduce foot print, you can go with a tablet or an “all-in-one” computer which combines the PC and monitor in one assembly. A growing trend is the use of touch screen monitors and tablets. These eliminate the need for a keyboard.

Cash Drawer – A cash drawer had been considered essential, but is becoming less necessary given the growth in electronic payments. This cash drawer opens when you ring up a sale, just like a cash register drawer. You can get locking cash drawers, plastic inserts to separate your bills and coins, plus a slot to stuff your credit card slips. There are nominally two types of cash drawers:

1) Receipt printer-driven – The first type connects to a special connector on your receipt printer. The receipt printer behaves much like any other computer printer (see below).  When you print a receipt, a signal is passed through the printer to the cash drawer to open it.

2) Direct-connect – The second type connects directly to your computer, either via an RS-232 serial port, the parallel port, or a USB port. The POS software sends a special code which opens the drawer.

Receipt Printer – As the name implies, this device prints your customer receipts. It can also print out a z-out tape if required. There are numerous types of receipt printers, categorized – like any other computer printer – by its printing technology and its computer interface. The two most popular formats are thermal printers or inkjet printers.

There are advantages and disadvantages of each type. Thermal printers never run out of ink or toner but they use special, more expensive, paper. Inkjet can often print in two colors (red and black) which is useful for printing debits, returns, or special messages.  Some printers will automatically cut the receipt paper at the end, making it easier to provide a clean receipt to your customer. Others furnish a tear bar. You will need to match the type of cash drawer you choose with the receipt printer. If you choose the ‘printer connect’ style of cash drawer, you will need to also choose a printer with the cash drawer interface feature. We recommend receipt printers by Epson and Star Micronics.

Barcode Scanner – The most efficient – and accurate – way of ringing up sales at your checkout station is by using a bar code scanner. That’s why all of the major retail chains use them and why more and most small businesses are using them. Many POS software applications have bar code label printing capability. You can print labels right from your inventory items database. For those POS systems that don’t have this capability, you can acquire a low cost bar code label solution. Once you’ve applied labels to all your items, you can ring them up by simply scanning them with a bar code scanner saving time and reducing errors. There are two categories of bar code scanners – attached, and portable.

  1. Attached – As the name implies, attached scanners are attached to your computer via a cable. This is perfectly suited for checkout counter POS systems. Today, these bar code scanners plug into your computer using a USB port. Older scanners use a special ‘Y’ cable that allows you to share the keyboard and bar code scanner on the same computer keyboard port.
  2. Wireless or Portable – Wireless bar code scanners have the advantage of not being tethered to a computer. While much more expensive, this allows you to take the scanner to where the items are instead of the other way around. Portable data collection devices are extremely useful for taking inventory. These devices consist of a small computer, data storage, and bar code scanner integrated into a handheld unit. Data that has been scanned and stored in one of these devices can be transferred to the POS system via a docking station or wireless radio transmission. Docking stations are generally connected to the POS system’s computer USB port. The portable scanner is “docked’ or plugged into the docking station. Software transfers the collected data into the POS system’s database. Some scanners allow you to transmit the data at the time it is being scanned via Bluetooth or directly to a receiver interfaced to the POS computer. These devices normally have a range between 50 and 400 feet.

Barcode Label Printing – POS systems can often print your bar code product labels. Most POS systems offer the ability to customize the format of the price labels. You cannot print price labels on your receipt printer, so you can either print using a specialized label printer, or use blank sheets of preprinted label stock (i.e Avery paper label sheets) and a standard general purpose desktop printer. Barcode labels require at least a 300 dpi resolution. We recommend using a popular label printer, such as the Zebra label printers, as these have more integrations.

Pole display – Customers frequently like to watch you ring up their items. A pole display is a LCD or LED sign which shows the customer each item that’s rung up. It can even flash little advertising messages to those waiting with their purchases. Check your POS provider’s documentation to see if they support pole displays.

Payment Terminals - Terminals today use EMV technology, where the terminal reads information off a chip embedded in the payment card. Older terminals use mag stripe readers – the mag (short for magnetic) stripe reader. It provides a way of reading credit cards. A credit card’s magnetic stripe on the back can contain 3 tracks of information. Signature pads are a popular addition to payment terminal because they enable a paper-free environment. Businesses gain the benefits of electronic receipts – no more storing or tracking paper, eliminating chargebacks from lost receipts, reducing paper expense, and speeding up the payment processing cycle. Customers view their signatures as they sign LCD window, mirroring the familiar pen and paper experience. Electronic signatures can simultaneously be viewed on a monitor, allowing for visual comparison with original card signatures.  Many iPad POS systems allow you to enter a signature using your fingernail. A wireless POS terminal provides an ideal way for customers to pay for goods and services from anywhere at anytime – without having to keep cash on hand or visit a fixed POS location. This trend was started by Square – but now virtually all major payment processors offer some sort of mobile payment solution. Whether it’s home delivery, field service personnel, taxis, kiosks or concessions at special events, a wireless POS solution allows a business to accept credit card and debit card payment easily and securely.

Scales – If you own a grocery store, a recycling operation, or any other business where you need to weigh items at your checkout station, then this POS peripheral may be required. It transmits the items weight directly to the POS software which can total the amount based on your pricing information. POS scale peripherals come in all sizes. Check your POS software for compatibility first. Not all POS software packages support scales.

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