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What is Cash Register POS Software (aka: Point of Sale Software) - And What Should You Be Looking For?

- By Bob Twain

POS or Point of Sale Software is at once both very simple and extremely complicated. To a person new to the concept, you can come across a variety of terms, classifications, and definitions that seem to overlap and sometimes make no sense at all. One of the terms that people often come across is Cash Register POS Software, however the product doesn't exist.

Yep. 'Cash Register' POS Software doesn't exist. The term is another way for software companies to differentiate their Point of Sale software product from the thousands of other products available.

So what is POS Software?

POS software is at its simplest, a computer program that takes the place of your cash register. All sales are made through the computer. You enter the information, sales and transactions, and it records and tracks everything. But it didn't begin that way.

The History of POS Software

POS systems evolved from the mechanical cash registers of the first half of the 20th century and were operated by a crank and lever. Manufactured by NCR and Burroughs, they recorded data on journal tapes required a few extra steps to transcribe the information into the retailer's accounting system. The next step in the evolution of the POS software that we know and love today was to move to cash registers that were operated with electricity rather than the crank and lever and were again originally manufactured by NCR.

In 1973 new computer driven registers and the bar code readers on the POS systems were introduced. In 1986, the POS systems became based on PC technology with the introduction of the IBM 4683. Also during the late 1980's, credit card devices were developed to operate independently thus making credit card processing easier and more secure.

Today, retail Point of Sale software systems are more advanced than ever. They utilize a variety of operating systems, cater to specific industries, business sizes, hardware requirements and much more.

POS software systems can automate several other areas of your business and are not limited to simple cash register functions. Today's systems can enhance your marketing by tracking customers and generating automated mailings, they can automate accounting functions like payroll, accounts receivable and payable, they can track inventory, control and automate price updates and much, much more. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's return to the cash register component of POS software systems.

Every POS software product will have specific hardware requirements and equipment. Your POS system will most certainly have a cash drawer. They come in various sizes and materials and have different connection options. Generally the cash drawer component of your system will cost you between $100 and $400.

There are other hardware components to consider in addition to your cash drawer. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • PC
  • Keyboard
  • Invoice and/or receipt printer
  • Label printer
  • Check reader
  • Signature pad
  • Change dispenser
  • Bar code scanner
  • Display/Monitor
  • Credit card reader
Each hardware component comes with decisions including price, materials, size, and of course compatibility.

All of the components of POS software and hardware systems can be overwhelming and often leads to costly and frustrating mistakes.

One of the unfortunate mistakes that retailers often make is to buy their Point of Sale hardware before they buy their software. This is a mistake for two reasons. The first is that you may end up wasting a lot of money if the software system you decide upon is incompatible with the hardware you have chosen.

The second is that you may severely limit your choices of software leaving you with a system that you really don't like or worse, that isn't designed for your industry and company size.

The next mistake that retailers often make is that they buy software that isn't designed for their industry. While there are thousands of POS systems available, not all of them will be optimal for your business and your industry. A gift shop has much different needs than a car dealer and a liquor store doesn't need the same software as a clothing store.

Narrow your search to your specific industry and you will be well on your way to money well spent and a POS software system that makes your life easier and your business more profitable.

There are two last considerations you must ask yourself before you begin the search for the right POS system to fit your needs.

  1. Is your store big enough to benefit from a POS system? I suspect if you are researching POS systems that you already know the answer to this question but a good rule of thumb is that if you are grossing more than $100,000 a year then you would probably benefit from a system.

  2. Is POS Software worth the expense? In most cases the software pays for itself and the answer is yes. But that doesn't mean that any system will work for you and be worth the money you're likely to spend. The key to finding the right system for your needs is taking the time to do the research.

The evolution of cash registers to POS software systems has brought about many wonderful changes. They enhance productivity and increase your bottom line, allowing you to focus more on your business rather than the sometimes tedious tasks associated with owning a retail establishment.

While Cash Register Point of Sale Software is a misnomer and finding the appropriate software product for your company can be a real challenge, there are good, reliable, and unbiased sources of information that you can turn to. To learn more about your POS Software options and how to avoid costly mistakes visit

To Your Success!

Bob Twain

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