The Top 7 POS Systems For Seasonal Businesses
When they think of “seasonal businesses” most people immediately picture one of those enormous Spirit Halloween stores—the ones with the animatronic demon babies and horrible spring-loaded clowns that jump out from dumpsters, terrifying customers and yet inexplicably making my two young sons want to go back repeatedly.
But not all seasonal businesses automatically prompt the responses: “Oh yeah, October’s coming” and “Wait, what did that building used to be? A Payless Shoe Source?” Seasonal businesses are much more diverse than that, and more prolific than the average consumer realizes.
Operating a business that sees dramatic swings in sales at various times of the year poses a set of unique challenges. And selecting the appropriate point of sale system can help solve many of those issues, cutting down on some of the volatility and unpredictability that comes with a seasonal business.
If you run a seasonal business, a few things you’ll want to look for in a system are:
- Strong loyalty program: A system that makes it easy to interact with your customer base, keeping it abreast of promotions and ongoing events, can help offset downtimes for your business.
- Employee management: Seasonal businesses tend to have a high level of turnover, with staff sizes that can fluctuate throughout the year. A POS with a simple way to track employees, hours and payroll can be an enormous time saver.
- Reporting: Most strong POS systems now offer a robust reporting system with dozens of ways to track sales and trends, making it easier to figure out how well your business will need to perform to withstand the lean times.
- Integrations: It’s worth checking out all of the apps and integrations that your POS system pairs with. You may find, for example, that the system partners with an app specifically created for golf shop retailers or outdoor apparel stores.
So here are some of the top POS systems to keep in mind for seasonal businesses:
ERPLY (see our review) is a rock-solid retail POS system and a strong option for virtually any type of store. Its robust and highly functional back end makes inventory and employee management a snap. ERPLY offers customizable purchase ordering and integrates with nearly all major shipping companies. Like most strong POS systems, its inventory tracking can be viewed in real time and automatic reordering can be switched on to easily replenish stock. ERPLY also has a built-in time clock and reports for managing employees. Employees can easily check their schedules within the system and managers can see payroll and commissions while setting permissions for their workers. ERPLY also has a terrific customer management function that stores everything from an individual’s email and purchasing history to his or her Twitter name. It also stores payment information and makes it extremely easy to customize promotions and pull up loyalty points, keeping an individual engaged throughout the calendar year. ERPLY comes standard with a wide variety of integrations.
Our full ERPLY review provides more details.
Seasonal businesses often go through chaotic periods of high turnover and sales rushes. In those times, it’s nice to have a POS that is intuitive and well organized in virtually all facets. Vend (see our review) does pretty much everything you would want from a retail POS and keeps things simple with a built-in loyalty program that is points-based and customizable. Its customer management capabilities are also excellent. Customer information can be downloaded or inputted directly into the system. You can store as much or as little information as you would like and, as a unique twist, Vend has a function where customers can receive bonus rewards for doling out e-mail and contact information, opening up the potential to reach customers who are normally reluctant to sign up for anything. Vend’s employee management is also simple, allowing for easy tracking and cash management. In terms of integrations, Vend is ahead of the game, paring with dozens of apps. (Shopify, for example, is always a nice feature for inventory tracking and Perkville helps even further with tracking customers, helping to set up specific coupons and loyalty programs.) Although Vend doesn’t have a payroll function within its system, it integrates with Deputy which can handle scheduling, attendance, tasks etc..
Our full Vend review provides more details.
Ring It Up
Ring It Up (see our review) provides an extremely affordable (and mobile) product without skimping on essential functions, making it a strong candidate for a pop-up retail business or any that might see an influx of customers at varying times. While they may not be essential, Ring It Up’s customization options are nice, allowing for personalized receipts and invoices and even color schemes. A few built-in options, like a scanner, calculator, and calendar, help add to the product’s mobility and make it user friendly with minimal training. Ring It Up also partners with Dropbox, which backs up a business’s data in case of an outage. For a simple and cost-effective product, Ring It Up provides all of the reporting functions you would need with solid inventory control and purchase orders, giving you the essentials for your business without a lot of additional features that you might not ever use. Ring It Up is lacking in integrations but has very few holes otherwise.
Check out our full review of Ring It Up on our site.
For slightly larger operations with a wide array of products, Lightspeed (see our review) is an impressive offering. While it’s a little more expensive than other POS systems, you also get significantly more bang for your buck. A big perk for Lightspeed is that, even before you decide to purchase, a representative will talk you through the product to make sure it offers exactly what you need. Inventory management can be tricky in seasonal businesses and this is an area where Lightspeed shines. The system is extremely customizable and offers some great search options, even allowing you to create your own search systems. It also has a strong purchase ordering system featuring easy tracking and returns and it’s simple to interact with and keep tabs on customers. Lightspeed lets you customize categories to offer certain customers discounts and rewards and its partnerships with MailChimp and MailSync make marketing simple. The reports in Lightspeed Retail are also exceptionally robust, allowing sales histories to be viewed by hour, day, week, month or year along with your top-selling employees and most profitable lines of inventory. The integrations available are impressive, and Lightspeed even has its own eCommerce platform.
Read the full review of Lightspeed Retail on our site.
Shopify (see our review) is an exceptionally easy to use system offered at a reasonable price; for a business that employees seasonal workers, there is minimal experience or training necessary. Shopify allows for permissions to be set quickly and effectively by an admin, limiting what employees can access. There is a fantastic mobile app which can allow managers to access information remotely and across multiple locations. The register is intuitive and portable and simple functions allow for multiple payment types. In fact, there are built-in gift card creation features and unique custom payment options. The layaway or partial payment option is particularly nice for stores that may specialize in holiday gifts. Shopify also lets managers create customer profiles, making individuals easy to target for specific promotions. For the price, this software provides a strong reporting suite and inventory management. With an open API, tech savvy managers can also create their own apps to better suit their business.
For more details, read our full review of Shopify.
With online retailers beginning to dominate the market, brick and mortar shops are looking for any advantage they can get. Bindo (see our review) was designed to help small business owners succeed against the online giants. This POS offers exceptional inventory management with simple importing and customizable matrixes. There is also a Favorites grid which makes hot selling items easily accessible and can get customers through the line faster. The employee management functionality is a strong suit. There is a built-in Identity Safeguard which can assign employees individual ID pins and takes a snapshot of each log in and log out. Permissions are assigned easily with three levels of access. Bindo has the ability to track customer spending for targeted marketing campaigns. The loyalty program is another highlight; stores can reward customers in a variety of ways aside from just the amount of money spent. You can create as many loyalty tiers as you want and the loyalty points are logged in the system. When it comes to analytics, Bindo has a solid number of reports available and also offers a mobile option.
Read our full review of Bindo for more information.
LivePOS (see our review) is a feature-heavy POS option that has very strong employee management features. For managers who are willing to truly explore the software (which claims to add new features weekly), there are a number of unique perks. You can apply specific permissions to employees based on where they are currently located and every keystroke is tracked and easy to access. There are also some more fun features, like creating sales competitions among employees, providing motivation to sell items. LivePOS shines in its incredible number of integrations. The system pairs with Shopify, one of the top eCommerce options available. MailChimp is also built in, allowing for easy marketing campaigns to hopefully draw in customers throughout the year. Perkville is built-in, and there is also a built-in feature through Groupon that can easily create large-scale coupons. LivePOS’s eCommerce shop is a major benefit as managers can easily access and control inventory across multiple locations.
For a full review of LivePOS, check out our website.
Running a seasonal business can be tricky, but there are plenty of things you can do and have at your fingerprints to set you up for success. In particular, the right POS system can help dramatically. With options available to help you customize your reports and easily manage inventory, you can take some of the unpredictability out of your workflow. And when you employ a fluctuating number of workers, the ability to manage them and keep your information secure is crucial. What’s more, having a way to stay touch with your customers throughout the year can also ensure repeat business. All of the above systems offer features that can help you maintain the health of your business, no matter how much yearly ebb and flow you experience.
Check out our comprehensive evaluations of these products and others in the POS review section of the Merchant Maverick website.