Walk into a grocery store or your neighborhood specialty market today and you’ll see the basics of a high level point of sale system: bar code scanners, thermal receipt printers, cash drawers, pole displays, and cashier work stations. But what sets this high-traffic, speed-oriented industry apart from other point of sale users is the need for fast and accurate scanning combined with precise weighing of products. That means you’ll also want the best scanner and scale combination, capable of maintaining a high level of check-out speed without sacrificing accuracy.
When putting together a grocery store point of sale system, the choice of hardware and software is based on whether the store will include just one lane or multiple lanes for customer checkout. When building a single-lane system, you’ll need just a stand-alone POS, while multiple lanes will require a networked system with each lane tied into the system. During the hardware selection process, each part must be configured to communicate with every other piece in the system.
Here’s a short primer on the different components generally included when assembling a grocery POS system.
Grocery POS system components
Scanner/Scale: The scanner and scale, or platter, as it’s often called, sets grocery store POS systems apart from those used in other industries. The scanner/scale combines a highly sensitive scale used for produce, bulk foods, and other items sold by the pound, with a laser bar code scanner.
When considering this hardware combination, supermarket owners have two choices, adaptive scanner/scales and integrated scanner/scales. The difference?
Adaptive scanner/scales mean that both the scanner and scale are stand alone units, designed separately and often by different manufacturers. Choosing an integrated scanner/scale for a grocery POS application means that both products are incorporated together at the factory, and there’s no duplication of power supplies and cables.
Cashier work station: In many cases the work station incorporates several other pieces of hardware such as receipt printers and cash drawers. The centerpiece is a touchscreen display, showing the checker all relevant data on one screen.
Thermal receipt printer: Supermarket POS systems often print thousands of receipts each day, many of which include 50 to 100 items each. When identifying a POS receipt printer, most experts point to printer speed as the highest priority. And since the sound of a printer chattering away every few seconds can disturb both customers and cashiers, look for receipt printers that fall on the silent end of the spectrum. The auto-cut feature means there’s minimal pulling or tearing to get the receipt off the roll.
Grocery POS Software: A point of sale software package combines tracking of customer transactions and credit/debit card readers with management of peripheral devices such as cash drawers and pole displays. You’ll gain a wealth of targeted data about your customers, products, and inventory, and get a handle on individual cashier effectiveness.
Pole display: Used to display the total amount due, pole displays provide an easy visual for the customer and speeding up the transaction. In many cases, the display also scrolls the individual items as they scan, preventing price disputes which can also cause long delays.
Specialty Grocery POS system pieces
While the basic configuration of supermarket POS systems hasn’t changed a whole lot over time, here are a few recent additions implemented for the benefit of both grocers and customers.
Self-checkout stations: While the larger chain supermarkets started the self-checkout trend, a combination of customer demand and cost saving measures drives these additions. Just like lanes manned by checkers, both hardware and software for self service stations connects to the point of sale system.
These all-in-one stations offer a variety of bagging configurations, based on store volume, and include high-quality scanner/scales, touch screen displays, cash dispensers, card processing terminals, and integrated receipt printers.
Bottom-of-the-basket loss prevention: As in many industries, loss prevention is a big factor in today’s supermarkets. Experts estimate that the grocery industry as a whole faces bottom-of-the-basket losses of $70 to $80 million every year. And these losses can slice five to ten percent of net profit from an already lean bottom line.
That’s why scanners with image recognition software are emerging for use in grocery POS systems. For example, LaneHawk, by Evolution Robotics, incorporates a camera embedded in the check stand, designed to watch the bottom of the grocery cart. While the cashier is busy scanning the rest of the order, the camera pans the cart, looking for forgotten items. As the item packaging is recognized, the integrated software creates pop-ups on the checker’s display screen, prompting her to add the extra items to the order. And item descriptions and UPC information goes directly to the grocery POS.
Putting together a grocery POS system doesn’t have to be complicated. But you’ll want to do some research and talk to your POS reseller first to ensure the components you select meet the volume requirements of your supermarket or grocery store.