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Store Front: Point-of-Sale Systems—The Better Cash Register

Posted: Jan. 29, 2013, 8:00 p.m. EST


Point-of-sale systems offer several features to help retailers simplify and enhance their business.
By Keith Loria

In today’s tech-savvy retail environment, pet specialty retailers are looking for easy-to-use tools that can help them run their stores more efficiently.  For many, a point-of-sale (POS) system is one such tool.

POS software is designed to solve many operational and record-keeping issues to keep business running smoothly. Traditionally, the software adds up the sales total, figures the state sales tax, calculates the change back from the amount tendered and automatically adjusts the store’s inventory levels to debit the amount of product sold.

However, not all POS systems are the same, and it’s important that retailers choose the right system for their needs.

“At the very least, a point-of-sale system for a pet store should handle sales, manage the inventory database, run a barcode scanner and allow one the capability of querying the inventory and sales database in a flexible way,” said Michael Koploy, an ERP analyst with Software Advice, a website that helps buyers find the right software for their businesses. “Inventory management capabilities suitable to a multistore chain probably are overkill for a single boutique store, and the care and feeding it would require probably is not worth the additional effort.”

Going Mobile
A growing trend over the past few years is the emergence of iPad point-of-sale systems, which are more affordable, look better, provide better functionality and keep data stored safely in the cloud, according to POS providers. With cloud-based systems, store owners can access sales and inventory information from any Web-enabled device no matter how many registers or stores they have. Other benefits include lower costs, less downtime, not having to perform updates and no backups.

More point-of-sale systems operate from an iPad
More point-of-sale systems are incorporating new technology, such as iPads and cloud storage.Courtesy of ShopKeep POS
New York City-based ShopKeep POS offers an iPad point–of-sale system that is growing rapidly with more than 3,000 merchants across the country using the product, which includes a new app version, according to the company.

“Time clock is one of the new features that lets staff clock in and out of ShopKeep POS,” said Henry Glucroft, the company’ s content manager. “From the BackOffice, you can download reports that can be sent to your payroll managers, helping you save time, and giving you the information you need to make smarter scheduling decisions.

“Modifiers is another newly added feature that reduces clutter, helps you keep a more organized inventory and even lets you print orders wirelessly,” he added.

The iPad POS systems are easier to train employees on, so they can spend more time helping customers choose the right pet food rather than ringing up the orders, Glucroft said. Plus, the reporting features can help retailers make more informed business decisions, he noted.

“The reporting features can help you make smarter business decisions as you start to see different sales trends,” Glucroft said. “Customer purchases and information can be saved so you can better serve your clientele in the future and build smart, successful marketing campaigns.”

Cloud-based POS system MerchantOS recently released an iPhone/iPod Touch app that allows its customers to make sales on the floor or at remote events.

“We’ve been testing it with a few customers, and after our next update we plan to really start letting people know about it,” said Ivan Stanojevic, CEO of the San Jose, Calif., company. “We’re working a lot more with mobile platforms over the next several months.”

Retailers often aren’t computer experts, nor do they want to spend time messing around with their point-of-sale system, POS providers reported.

Other Software Systems
Point-of-sale software are not the only programs available to retailers. For example, Alan Ronay, owner of Best Buddies Dog Boutique and Bakery, in St. Pete Beach, Fla., uses project management software as well as architectural software.

“The PM software helps us with scheduling and planning of events and store movements,” he said. “We use architectural CAD software to do planograms so we know how the store will look long before new items even arrive.”

Retailers have also started to get into Appointment Cloud, which is touted as the first online scheduling SaaS software to deliver high throughput instant appointment scheduling services in the cloud. By integrating seamlessly with personal calendars, including Outlook and Google Calendar, the Appointment Cloud acts as a repository of availability, according to the software’s provider, TimeTrade Systems Inc.

A system that aims to makes it easier for pet owners and service providers to connect with one another is also catching retailers’ attention, reported Garret Tadlock, founder of PawLoyalty in San Francisco.

“In one single location, pet owners can store all their important information about their pets in a space that is owned by them and can be taken with them forever,” he said. “This eases the process of setting up appointments for their pets.”

For the service provider, this means less time worrying about scheduling appointments or calling for reminders. It also makes it easier to attract new customers and for referrals, Tadlock added.

A similar software system is PetBookings, based in Carmel, Ind., which serves pet boarding facilities, groomers, dog daycare, dog training, dog sitting and other pet care businesses with instant and confirmed online reservations for dog and cat owners.

This management tool helps pet owners discover the best pet hotel or kennel for their four-legged loved one, the company reported.

“PetBookings enables you to compare pet boarding services, take advantage of special offers, and find locations, prices and services that meet your needs all from your computer screen,” said co-founder Christopher Day. —KL

Systems West LLC’s software is aimed at clients who know next to nothing about point-of-sale software. Screens are clearly labeled, and all a user needs to know is what they want to sell.

“Within the last year or so, we’ve released a low-cost but full-featured point-of-sale solution, Perennial, as part of our product line,” said Leon Bodzin, president of the San Diego-based company. “We’ve recently branched out on to eBay to make our products as broadly accessible to the world as possible.”

Noteworthy features include built-in client email messaging, accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales on hold, and multistore capabilities, he reported.

“All of the features added to our software are informed by the needs of our clients,” Bodzin said. “When clients present us with feature requests that we feel would benefit a good segment of our customer base, we add those features.”

Meeting Specific Needs
POS system providers often keep the special needs of pet store owners in mind when designing products. For example, Arba Retail Systems’ ArbaPro Pet POS offers inventory tracking and analysis, customer loyalty programs, livestock management with loss tracking and employee time clocking and performance tracking.

Rob Gaudio, co-owner of Pussy & Pooch  in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., uses Lightspeed Retail for the store’s POS and inventory management. It is a Mac-based system that also is available on the iPad.

“We wanted to upgrade to a more robust system,” Gaudio said. “Some of the main features that led to our decision were the ‘multistore’ functionality, integrated with e-commerce system, iPads for client show-rooming and line busting, and robust reports.

“While the system is a recent upgrade for us, we are finding that it does lack some basics of the traditional POS functionality,” he continued. “For instance, it focuses so much on bells and whistles that it has missed some very basic necessities for POS usage and the true day-to-day needs of a retailer.”

That’s something retailers need to be wary of, especially first-time buyers, store owners cautioned. If retailers are purchasing their first point-of-sale system, it is important that the system be able to export information in a universal format so retailers can move their inventory and sales data to a new system should theirs become obsolete.

Greg Phillips, owner of Gone to the Dogs Boutique in St. Pete Beach, Fla., currently is not using a POS system but is thinking about getting one this year.

“As my business grows, it becomes more time consuming to manage the inventory manually,” he said. “I’m looking to better manage the inventory, to know when to reorder (based on sell-through of SKUs), to know when to reduce the price of an item based on sell through, and to be able to program price reductions or sales for specific time frames.”

Phillips is researching different systems online and has been asking the advice of fellow pet store owners.

Retailers should make an extensive checklist of things a system must do for the operation before making any decisions, Stanojevic of MerchantOS said.

“Never buy a system without playing around with it a bit and feeling comfortable with it,” he said. “If you can’t figure out how to do a few basic operations on your own, that is a pretty strong warning sign you should be moving along.

“A good point-of-sale should be barely noticeable to you or your customers when making sales but get you all the data you need to maintain proper inventory and customer relations,” he added.

At Best Buddies Dog Boutique and Bakery, also in St. Pete Beach, Fla., owner Alan Ronay uses a system that integrates sales, inventory, payments and online.

“We have tried several systems, and we ended up keeping the one we have because it has a long history of support and innovation,” Ronay said. “We needed something that could grow with us.”

The e-system helps Best Buddies track sales and provides detailed insight into how the business is performing, which allows for wise decisions moving forward, Ronay said.

“It also helps us track sales and promotions, which helps us see the effectiveness of campaigns,” he said. “Knowing how to use all the tools of the system helps us understand patterns and enables us to get ahead of trends.”

While the store is making the most of using tablets to add on more terminals, Ronay would like to see a system that allows more flexibility with add-ons and plugins.

“Different industries require different tools, and we’d like to be able to develop our own tools and integrate them into the system more easily,” he said. 

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