I regularly get asked about which point of sale system to buy. I spent 10 years in IT, so I have some idiosyncratic ideas about technology, but it mostly comes down to computing ubiquity. It needs to be transparent and just work. I'm not interested in multiple updates, migrations, servers, or new features.
I currently use Lightspeed Onsite. Do I recommend it? No. Why do I continue using it? I'm grandfathered in and pay a support contract once a year rather than a monthly fee. I pay more for remote access to my POS each year, than I pay for my POS. When looking for a new POS, which I may be doing this year, here are ten considerations:
1. When the software breaks, who gets called? Is it a dude? Dudes get hit by buses. I want an 800 number and an organization so when I'm driving through the jungles of Central America, my staff can get things fixed by calling an organization, rather than chasing down a dude (why my AC has been broken for a month).
2. When the hardware breaks, who gets called? We have consultants we can call, but we don't have a support contract with them, so they may be a couple days out. This is not acceptable, really, but it's the best we could do with a Mac based system. Meanwhile, staff can muddle through with Square on their phones or a store tablet, as they're all trained for that.
3. Does it generate purchase orders? This is the keystone to our purchasing, which is often $10,000 a week. It should generate POs based on re-order quantities by item. If it can't do that, I don't want it. For example, when the Player's Handbook, gets below 4 copies, order up to X, or order X copies from Y supplier.
4. Does it generate cost of goods numbers? This data is generated from #3, purchase orders, and it should use either the COGS from the last purchased item or better yet, perform cost averaging. I need this for my Open to Buy worksheet and it's non negotiable. Some good systems can't do this.
5. Does it do reporting? Better question, does it do the right *kind* of reporting, as most POS reports are useless to me. I need to do turn rate analysis (which often requires an export to Excel), top sellers, customer reports, sales tax reports, general sales reports, and end of day reports. Does it allow for custom reports and saved reports?
6. Does it handle special orders? Not some layaway work around, but does it offer separate tracking of customer purchases of things I don't currently have in a robust system? There's only one system I know of that does that well, and I'm using it. We do over 400 special orders a year.
7. Is the company supporting the software? I care more about bug and security fixes than software features. It's also possible the company "supports" the software, but they place most of their effort on a newer product (Lightspeed). Security standards change so quickly nowadays versus a decade ago, an abandoned POS system is quickly out of date and may incur additional fees from credit card processors.
8. Does the game trade integrate or work well with the software? Can I upload purchase orders to suppliers and have it interact with their database? Most don't do this. Can I export POs to common file formats? I can't export to a CSV so I can't order direct from Reaper, for example. Can I create "bundles" or larger units that can be broken down into smaller units (AKA CCG boxes)? Most importantly for some stores, does it integrate with Crystal Commerce of TCGPlayer Pro? This is where ION shines, but the top off the shelf POS systems will never have this.
9. What does it cost? Does it require a large capital purchase up front or can I run this software on a cheap PC or tablet and pay a monthly fee? An onsite version will require hardware, software, accessories and often an integration specialist. It can cost up to $5,000. I can't recommend a new store buy an onsite POS at this stage. Look to the cloud and a modest terminal with a few accessories. Expect to pay monthly either way, but expect a cloud based system to not require a consultant, unless you're migrating.
10. How does it feel? You have to like it. It has to excite you and make you want to engage. If it's on a PC and you're a Mac person, it may turn you off. If it looks like a DOS application from the 80's, and you like graphical interfaces, a crude interface may leave you cold. Some of the most robust systems feel overwhelming to use. Some of the most user friendly only have partial overlap into what we do or lack key features. My own POS was designed for clothing boutiques, and it has some useless features (for me) to prove it.
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