If you’re a type of shop which doesn’t involve a service element (like a bike shop), doesn’t involve perishable goods (like a food shop), and isn’t selling something which works as e.g. a contract (like a phone shop) then this is a page to help you choose POS. So clothes shops, department stores, alcohol shops, hobby shops, tourist shops, niknak shops – shops for vapes, drapes, and tins of beans, this is for you.
In this page, we’re mainly going to look at cloud-based systems for pub; that’s because as a business, we only sell cloud- or hybrid-systems which run on iPads, Androids or Macs. We don’t sell the older generation of POS systems, called “fixed till” systems, because with a few exceptions, we don’t think they’re very good. (Find out why here).
First, we’re going to quickly answer what kind of POS you need depending on your size. Then, we’re going to talk in more detail about the features in different software which are important for pubs. Then, we can deep-dive into the software brands we’d recommend – and which ones we wouldn’t.
What kind of POS do you need?
Starting at the smaller if you have a market stand or you’re just starting small you probably don’t need a proper POS at-all; you need a payment processor which has some POS functions.
The “freePOS” systems are designed for small merchants without much inventory.
FreePOS have two big upsides – their software is free, and their payment processing doesn’t come with a long-term contract. (We don’t expect any of the POS listed to have a contract; but the cheapest payment processing often will).
Alas, they have two big downsides, too. The first is that if your “average card transaction” size is more than about £10, unless you’re very very small, their payment processing is likely to not be the cheapest option. It starts at 1.75%, so if you can stomach that, then that’s OK. (If you’re very small or have very small transactions, they could well be the cheapest.)
The second downside is they have no inventory management. They don’t have staff management or complex front-of-house solutions either; but as you grow, having to manage your inventory manually will be the thing that really frustrates you first about these systems. It’s the thing that people with systems you pay for say they “couldn’t live without” and, well, you’re going to have to.
Think about what you pay yourself. Think about how much time you’re going to spend sorting out stock. Think about how much this software will make your life easier. If you spend no time doing it and you don’t have lots of stock, you should keep the £19 or so per month it would cost to upgrade.
We’d expect your POS to be free and to aim to pay around 1.75% on payment processing. Book a call to find out more.
Middle-Sized Stores and Small Chains
For middle-sized stores, there’s a few different kinds of software on the market.
AirPOS is designed for mid-range stores. They’re cheap, they have a small team based in Ireland, and they’re a good next step up from free software. Ask about AirPOS
Vend is slightly more expensive than AirPOS. They have a larger operation, with bigger software and support teams and software which is capable of handling a larger store. There are benefits of a large company – support is more reliably available, lots is being spent on the upkeep of the software, but most importantly, there’s a large number of integrations so you can be sure you’ll grow well. Learn about Vend
Shopify POS is another good choice. They’re best known as a slick e-commerce platform; but they do build POS, and if you have a Shopify store, you may want to choose them. There are two downsides to Shopify: the first is that they’re an e-comm store first and a POS company second. The second is that they push you towards their preferred payment processors so could be more expensive than they seem. Ask about Shopify POS
iZettle Pro is the biggest commercial operation of all, which has been spun out of iZettle Go. This was originally an acquisition by iZettle. But it’s cheap, and it’s simple and rapid. It was originally designed for hospitality businesses, but can work fine in retail as well. Ask about iZettle
At this stage, you’re likely to have accounting software such as Xero or Quickbooks, so you should check what accounting integrations are available with your POS – and whether they cost. Integration is important so that your spreadsheets update automatically.
For payment processing, you can continue using a pay-as-you-go provider like iZettle if you like; but it might become cheaper to enter into a longer term contract with a traditional payments provider such as worldpay or AIB. Call us to check which is cheaper based on your processing volumes.
If you’re a shop chain, you may begin to outgrow POS designed for mid-sized shops. In particular, you’re going to want more complex inventory management and multi-store management.
“Multi-site” or “multi-store” management is your login screen as the general manager across stores; which will enable you to compare performance across all your different stores.
For inventory management, there’s a complexity ceiling in what a POS can provide. At some point, it may be worth investing in warehouse management software or logistics management software which will focus on the areas of POS inventory management which you’re likely to find insufficient. As an e-commerce operation with a warehouse ourselves, we use Market Man to coordinate the delivery of our packages to our customers.
At that stage, we’d want to find a well-integrated POS software so that we had lots of options when we look for another software to execute the preciser task. Lightspeed is among the best-integrated software systems on the market.
This integration ecosystem uses Tenzo for advanced analytics; Market Man for procurement and inventory; Deputy for staff management; and Xero for accounting – all of which will integrate with Lightspeed.
What are the important POS features for clothes shops?
“Inventory Management” can sometimes feel like the fifth or sixth thing a POS does – compared to e.g. “integrated payment processing”, which is a base requirement to accept cards at all. But inventory management is something which will save you hundreds of hours of your time; and like sausages, it’s worth sniffing out a quality bit of “inventory management” software – because they vary a lot in quality, and it’s possible to do this exquisitely well or dreadfully badly. Features in red are outside the scope of POS, and will require their own software which can integrate with a POS.
- Easy ability to create purchase orders
- Integration with your e-commerce operation
- Easy bulk adding of stock
- Adequate modifier and variant capability
- A quick view about the state of your inventory
- Ability to look up availability of items in other stores
- Sub-categorise where items are within storage areas
- Notifications for low-stock i. Per-store or ii – overall.
- Special orders of stock transfer across stocks
- Easy printing via barcode printer (this isn’t necessarily a software consideration – check out our barcode range here).
- Automatic syncing between terminals and stores for levels
- Features which make stocktakes “frictionless” – stocktake in your chosen order/area
- “Theoretical versus actual” stock counts
- Suggested stock ordering
- Notifications for supplier costs and price rises
- Matrixed inventory
- Smart supplier analytics
- Logistics and warehouse management
The second function of a POS is to support your front-of-house staff as they do front-of-house things. This includes accepting payments; but should also be a utility belt of everything a staff member could need to help a customer in a pinch.
- Quick and simple interface allowing quick sales of items
- Integrated payments
- Easy refunding
- Online “loyalty card” options
- Text or email receipts
- Easy discounting
- “Identity stitching” across online and in-store (sometimes called “omnichannel”)
- Special orders – e.g. requesting the transfer of a product between stores
- Order holding – e.g. If necessary, a process for the “reservation” of certain orders to pick up later
- Identifying an item’s location in-store or in the warehouse
A vital purpose of any POS is to understand your own business. There’s lots of lenses to look at your business through; so consider which ones you’d like.
- Simple sales logs
- Analytics by product performance
- Analytics by part of store performance (e.g. isle, rail, floor)
- Analytics by brand performance
- Analytics by collection or season
- Analytics by product/price
- Analytics by attachment rates
- Aggregation of reporting across chains of stores
- Flexible data selection tools
- “Smart Suggestions”
- Analytics by external factors like weather
- Analytics by rate of throughput
- Analytics by “sellthrough” rate
Lots of stores cope with multitudes of part-time or temporary staff. Perhaps you need to take on extra staff over the Christmas period; or perhaps you have a lot of staff turnover as you regularly hire in students. A POS can help – somewhat. Features in red fall outside the scope of POS systems but can be integrated via a mature HR software where necessary.
- Multiple logins with different permissions
- Analytics by staff performance
- Timetable management
- “Time worked” reporting which can connect to payroll
- Shift-trading and centrally managed timetable features
- Predictions of staff requirements
For payment integrations, see a more detailed explanation below.
- Price scheduling – seasons/sales
- Payment integrations at processors at sensible prices (see below)
- Combination/deal discounts
- Email receipts and text receipts
- The ability to refund
- Multiple tenders (e.g. cash, and card)
A “cloud” system is one which sends all its data to a central computer, usually owned by Google or Amazon. This makes things a bit easier because they (Google or Amazon) have to worry about the upkeep of the computer, data law, and other things like that; it also means that you can access your account from any device, and log in from all your terminals in-store or your laptop at home. You don’t have to manually update lots of different machines!
- Automatic data syncing between terminals
- Log in with any device
- Offline mode
If POS systems go down, then you might not be able to sell. Software which is “software-as-a-service” usually have support teams. You’ll feel the difference between these and software you buy (“proprietary software”) here. Check for:
- 24/7 Phone Support
- A support library
- UK-based support team
Integrations are super-important as you grow.
When you’re small, a POS system is a swiss army knife, and the same bit of software can accomplish all the tasks listed above. As you get bigger that stops ringing true. Rather, different softewares have different specific things they’re good at, and you can “integrate” them so that changing one changes something in the other – more like a tool kit.
In other words, when somebody pays with a debit card at your store, you probably want the POS system to update. I.e., you’ll want you inventory management dashboard to deduct one unit of what they bought from your inventory. You’ll want your sales screen to log it as a “sale” in your reporting features. In turn, you’ll want your POS system to tell your accounting software that you’ve made a sale.
This is what integrations are. Payments talk to POS; POS talks to accounting, and so on.
Integrations are tough to make, so while they’re often free, you do sometimes have to pay for them, in addition to both bits of software. Sometimes your POS company builds them; other times, a third party software company has bulit one – these are the ones you’re more likely to have to pay for.
At this point, it’s important to understand a bit of jargon. “Open Source” software is software where they’ve published the code behind it. That means that anybody can turn around and decide to build an integration. And, even better, it means that if anybody charges for it, they’ll charge the market rate – because theoretically, anyone could build one, sell it, and undercut them. Older POS companies, which are not open source, sometimes sell integrations for thousands of pounds, once a customer has been brought into the system enough that they have too high sunk costs to move elsewhere.
Open-source software isn’t necessarily the best software; but we’d recommend either choosing open source, or choosing software which has deliberately built integrations far and wide for free or a small fee as part of their strategy.
- Integrations with payment processors (e.g. various – ask us for advice!)
- Integrations with advanced analytics software (e.g. Tenzo)
- Integrations with Accounting software (e.g. Quickbooks, Xero)
- Integrations with logistics and warehousing software (e.g. Market Man, Fourth)
- Integrations with staff management software (e.g. Deputy, Planday)
A payment processor is sometimes called an acquirer. They’re a type of bank which offer a long-term contract where they process card payments at between 0.55-1.5%. The alternative is called a payfac, or sometimes on this website a two-in-one solution. They offer a pay-as-you go plan where prices typically range from 1-1.75%. How much you pay will depend on your average transaction size, and your processing volumes.
(Think you’re paying more than this? Take advice)
When somebody pays by card, if you would like your system to update, you need something called a payments integration. (The alternative is to manually enter everything twice.) Some payment processors will integrate with some POS systems, but you can’t have any payment processor with any POS system. For that reason, we’d recommend that you start with the software/POS first, and come to the payment processing afterwards. If you choose a well-integrated POS, there should be plenty of processors to choose between; but when choosing POS software, do be aware that some companies subsidise cheap POS pricing by forcing you onto expensive processing.
As the cost of individual transactions increases, it becomes more likely that a fixed-term contract will be the cheaper option for you. That’s because they often express their prices as a “% +” format – e.g. 0.55% + 2 p, versus a 1% fee on a pay as you go processor.
All the software here can run on iPad tills, and all have master accounts which can be logged into via any device. Some of the software listed here can work on android or windows tablets – just ask.
There’s more features coming round the corner – for example, some POS systems launched in the US can check IDs, or software recently launched here can scan a sea of faces to know who’s been waiting for the longest at a busy bar.
What are the big retail POS systems?
There’s lots of different POS systems which are a good choice for retail.
iZettle, Sum Up, Square – processing costs only
iZettle, Sum Up, and Square are both payment processors and EPOS systems rather than EPOS systems only. They’re missing some key POS features – most notably, stock control – but will allow you to make a simple sales log and identify some products information.
Think about the amount of time you spend sorting your inventory; if you don’t think you could shave a few hours off of that with better organisation, or reduce stock shrinkage and losses, then well done (!) and these could be the best software choices for you.
AirPOS – £22.50 per month, including e-commerce
AirPOS is a cheaper solution which gives you lots of bang for your buck. It includes e-commerce software within that £22.50 per month, and boast a low churn rate and happy customers. That said, AirPOS is a smaller team and a smaller vendor – which means that fewer integrations are available as you grow. There’s not over-complication or too many confusing features; but there’s some things it can’t do.
Shopify POS – 9-299 USD per month depending on your plan and set-up. Also, watch out for higher payment processing fees.
Shopify POS is a supplementary product to Shopify’s e-commerce platform. For that reason, we’d say this is primarily interesting to people who have Shopify e-commerce already, as that cuts down your costs overall. It’s a straightfoward POS which is usable, but comes without complexer features.
iZettle Pro – £39 per month per iPad + processing
iZettle Pro was originally a hospitality software, but can work just as well in a simple retail offering. iZettle Pro is available via StoreKit and can discount your hardware costs. Like everything available through StoreKit, iZettle Pro has no contract and you can leave whenever you like.
iZettle Pro integrates with Xero for no additional charge.
Kounta – 60-180 AUD per site per month
Kounta is a sophisticated POS software choice with a clear USP – it’s all open-source. It’s possible to build all kinds of custom modules in Kounta, so if you have a strong developer in your team, and you want to amend and manage your POS software, this could be a great choice.
Otherwise, the software is a good solid POS choice, with the downside that the company is Australian – and so is support. You’ll be calling down under if you have an issue.
Vend – £49+ per month
Vend is one of the retail market leaders and aims to cater for different sizes of store. Like a lot of other software, Vend comes in Lite, Pro, or Enterprise – for which you’d need to request a quote. Vend is an excellent software because it beats the trendline on the axis of “lots of features” to “easy to use”. Vend manages to pack in lots of different features without requiring extremely complex training. They boast a huge library of resources to help you train, too.
Lightspeed Retail – it starts at around £79
Lightspeed is another market leader. It’s similar to Vend in a lot of ways; but probably pips Vend in terms of its numbers of features and integrations, making Lightspeed Retail suitable for marginally bigger stores than Vend. Lightspeed’s other software is for hospitality, and it’s easy enough to add service-based modules. So if your shop has a service element, they’re a good choice.
This would suit a complex shop or a chain – it’s probably too complex for most smaller shops.
Brightpearl – bespoke
Brightpearl is an unusual choice because it’s not strictly a POS company. There is a POS module; but Brightpearl is really for inventory management, and can even be integrated with existing POS for it’s inventory-focused applications.
If you have very complex inventory needs but need a relatively simple POS for your front-of-house, Brightpearl could be software to consider.