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Convenience stores are the backbone of the American retail industry. According to a 2014 report by Nielson, there are over 152,794 convenience stores in the United States—that’s one convenience store for every 2,095 people. Furthermore, convenience stores make up roughly 33.9% of all retail outlets in the United States.
Although other retail-based businesses are floundering under the weight of the ecommerce revolution, convenience stores are thriving. And why wouldn’t they be? We all have a bodega, pharmacy, or gas station we frequent when we want to grab a snack or run out of toilet paper.
But as convenience stores have grown in popularity, they’ve also adapted to better service the needs of their customers. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for a convenience store to provide everything from freshly prepared foods and e-cigarettes to wire transfer services and alcohol.
If you’re a convenience store merchant, you understand better than anyone the increasingly complex needs of your business. One of the best ways to stay ahead of the curve in this regard is to invest in a powerful convenience store POS system. Having a strong convenience store POS system can make running transactions a cinch while automating many of your more time consuming back-office obligations.
But how do you know which POS system is best for your convenience store? That’s where we come in. We’re going to show you some of the best convenience store POS systems on the market so you can make an informed decision for your business. But before we do that, let’s gain a better understanding of what exactly a convenience store merchant should value in their POS system.
Convenience stores are one-of-a-kind businesses. Generally speaking, they are expected to carry a wide variety of products, service a high volume of low-cost transactions, and keep round-the-clock business hours. As such, their needs in a convenience store POS system are highly specific. Here are the main criteria to consider when evaluating a convenience store POS system:
A POS system needs to come with hardware that is responsive to how the business operates. For convenience stores, that means providing a cash drawer, as many customers still prefer to pay for low-cost purchases with cash. You’ll also want a card reader that can accept magstripe, chip card, and contactless forms of payment. Why? Because convenience stores attract a wide variety of clientele, so it’s best to have a card reader that accepts the widest variety of payment methods.
Other products you’ll need include a barcode printer and scanner, as these tools can make your inventory management more efficient while eliminating errors. In addition, merchants will want to acquire a receipt printer and, potentially, a user-facing kiosk. The user-facing kiosk can serve two purposes in a convenience store: Customers can use it to punch in orders if your convenience store has a prepared foods section. It can also be used as a display at checkout so customers can review their purchases. One last hardware item to consider is an ATM machine, as these can increase foot traffic to a store. However, ATM machines are not technically a POS hardware item, and not all POS providers offer them.
When running convenience store transactions, speed is the name of the game. Many convenience stores process hundreds of transactions daily. In order to do that efficiently, and without any mistakes, you’ll need a POS system that is easy to operate. With a convenience store POS system, that means your POS should have an interface that is simple and intuitive.
So what does that look like? Well, some of it is based on personal preference. Generally speaking, you’ll want a touch-screen POS system without too much clutter. Buttons should be color-coded and large, and popular items should be easy to find. The system should also be able to operate offline, and your POS provider’s customer support team should be able to provide 24/7 support, given that many convenience stores stay open 24/7. It’s a nice bonus if your POS provider offers a help center on their website with additional information on how to use your system.
Convenience stores typically carry a lot of inventory, and there is also a lot of variety in the inventory they carry. Your convenience store POS system should be able to mitigate your inventory logistical headaches. This means being able to create and fulfill purchase orders directly from your POS. You’ll also want your POS to keep track of your stock counts in real-time, and alert you when any one item is running low. Some POS systems can even be programmed to create new purchase orders whenever a product is running low.
Other considerations include the ability to upload product catalogues into your POS, organize stock by category, add product variants, and track and transfer stock across multiple locations.
Finally, the last criteria you should value in your convenience store POS system is its employee management features. As we said before, most convenience stores stay open round the clock. This means you’ll likely have at least two or three shifts of employees every day. Your convenience store POS system should come with a time clock function that is able to accurately track when employees clock in and out. It’s an added bonus if it can export this information to your payroll software to help you calculate wages.
What’s more, you’ll want your POS to have job-based permissions, so that only managers can have access to sensitive information like sales data. Other useful features to have include a scheduling interface and employee ID codes so you can see who handled which transactions and when.
Now that you know exactly what to look for in a convenience store POS system, let’s provide you with some recommendations. Each of these options will hopefully make running your convenience store a whole lot easier.
Our first recommendation is Harbortouch POS. Harbortouch makes POS systems for a wide variety of business types, including convenience store POS systems. The best thing about Harbortouch is its hardware offerings. If you sign up for Harbortouch Elite, you’ll get a 15-inch touch-screen terminal with a powerful processor designed to handle a high volume of transactions. You’ll also get a cash drawer, receipt printer, barcode printer and scanner, a customer-facing display, and access cards for up to 10 employees. Harbortouch also provides additional hardware items that convenience store merchants may find useful, including a digital scale (for weighing produce), and ATM installation and management. What’s more, all Harbortouch hardware comes with a lifetime warranty.
In terms of payment processing, Harbortouch provides a card reader that can accept magstripe, chip card, and contactless forms of payment. Note that if you want to use Harbortouch as your POS system, you also have to use Harbortouch as your payment processor. Payment processing fees with Harbortouch are quote-based. On its website, Harbortouch says it will offer new clients a “rate review” to ensure they receive the best rates available.
With Harbortouch Elite you’ll get to pick between four different POS software options. Convenience store merchants will most likely want to use the retail version of the software, which comes with the following:
The software isn’t the most advanced, although it does come with important convenience store features like a time clock and the ability to place purchase orders. There is also 24/7 customer support. What’s more attractive about Harbortouch is the price: Customers can acquire all the Harbortouch Elite hardware and the retail software for a monthly fee of $49. That’s a lot cheaper than having to pay a lump sum for all your POS hardware. Note though that Harbortouch requires merchants to sign a three-year contract to use their POS systems.
Overall, Harbortouch is a good option for the convenience store merchant who is looking for a variety of different hardware products and an affordable rate.
Whereas Harbortouch is a great option if you’re looking for a low cost and hardware options, Square for Retail is for the merchant who wants powerful and easy to use software for their convenience store POS system.
Square’s ubiquity in the POS market is partially because they make products that are extremely user-friendly, and Square for Retail is no exception. Getting started is as simple as downloading the Square for Retail app to your iOS device, linking your business bank account, and uploading your inventory catalogue and employee roster. Once your information is in place, you’ll have access to the following functions:
You’ll need an iPad to run the Square for Retail app, as the software is not yet compatible with the Square Register. Square does sell a variety of POS hardware products to fill out your system. From the Square hardware store, you can purchase a card reader that can accept magstripe, chip card, and contactless forms of payment ($49), an iPad stand ($199), a cash drawer (starting at $129), and a receipt printer ($299). Square also sells a variety of hardware bundles, starting at $535.
Aside from your hardware costs, Square will charge you $60 per month to use the retail version of its software. Certain features, such as Square Payroll, Marketing, and Loyalty, will also cost an additional monthly fee. When you use Square for your POS, you’ll also have to use Square’s payment processing. However, when you sign up for Square for Retail, you’ll get a generous payment processing rate of 2.5% + $0.10 on all in-person transactions. Square for Retail also comes with a 30-day free trial.
All in all, Square is a great option for convenience store owners that want powerful software that can streamline a myriad of essential functions.
Sign Up for Square for Retail
Our last recommendation is ShopKeep POS, which we like to think offers the best of both worlds when it comes to hardware and software. The tricky thing about ShopKeep is that it is hard to nail down a price, given all of ShopKeep’s products are sold via a quote-based system (including ShopKeep Payments, its in-house payment processor). Regardless, if you do go with ShopKeep, you’ll get access to impressive retail software. Here is everything ShopKeep comes with:
ShopKeep’s software can be paired with six different hardware bundles. The one that will most likely be of interest to convenience store merchants is the retail package. This kit comes with a cash drawer, iPad enclosure, barcode scanner, barcode printer, receipt printer, and credit card reader that can take magstripe, chip card, and contactless forms of payment.
Again, the price you will pay to use ShopKeep as your convenience store POS system depends on the deal you are able to negotiate with your sales representative. However, it’s worth a go considering everything this POS system can do.
Get Started With ShopKeep
It’s important your convenience store leverages a POS system that can keep up with the demands of your customers. We feel that Harbortouch, Square for Retail, and ShopKeep are all up to the task thanks to their impressive combination of POS hardware and software. But don’t just take our word for it. Try them out for yourself. In the end, the right convenience store POS system is the one that works best for you.