A version of this feature was published in the August issue of BRAIN.
BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — For our August edition of the magazine, we asked our State of Retail panel members: What software do you use for your POS system? What do you like/dislike about it?
CINCINNATI: David Bordewisch, Director of Biowheels
We have been using Lightspeed POS for three years. The benefits of Lightspeed are that it is intuitive, regularly updated, and supported by most of the industry with regularly updated part numbers and catalogs. The ability to control repairs and inventory storage is available. Lightspeed has a lot more capabilities than what I’m using.
The main thing I don’t like about Lightspeed is that some companies don’t actively support catalog information. Making accurate product entries is tedious and time-consuming to the point that the amount of Lightspeed integration from a vendor is factored into our purchases. I would also like our POS to incorporate text messaging and offer competitive credit card processing rates. However, it would be difficult to change the system. Ultimately, a POS system only succeeds if everyone is educated. You will get out of it what you put into it.
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA: Linda Coburn, co-owner of Pedego 101 electric bikes
We used to have Shopkeep, a POS system now owned by Lightspeed, and now we use Lightspeed. One of the things we like is that it offers features that have really helped us keep better track of what’s going on in our service department. The system helps us know what we need to order before we run out, and we also like the “special order” and “order slip” features. When we evaluated it against our original outlet, the cost was very similar and we didn’t need a lot of special equipment to run it. With great capabilities comes equal complexity, so even after six months the system continues to present learning opportunities. We would like to be able to send invoices to customers for online payment. An integrated text messaging system would streamline notifying customers when service jobs are complete.
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. : Francisco Cornelio, Director https://www.nplusonecyclery.com
We use Square and love its simplicity. It is also accurate and has many applications for online and event sales. It’s not the cheapest system we could use, but it’s the most convenient for our needs and size. Sometimes cheaper isn’t the answer when it comes to drivability. Good trust comes at a price, and I like to go home knowing that my transactions, deposits, and customer information are safe. That said, there are some key features that we would like to use, but the additional fees for them are high enough that we are working on them for now.
ALTO, Ga.: Joe Elam, owner Habersham Bicycles
I have experience with Quickbooks, Cash Register, and Paper Journey, and have used Tri-Tech’s AIM since about 2003. Their customer service is top notch, and the cost is manageable, but definitely not free. The Active-e module integrates with my suppliers and the Smart-e Buy Local program, keeps my website inventory levels up to date, and helps manage my online sales within the same outlet. AIM offers modules to do just about everything a small business would need to automate their POS, but like anything, it takes effort to enjoy and leverage all it has to offer.
The biggest frustration with AIM is that it’s not the most intuitive software, so it can take some practice to master all it can do, and it’s especially difficult for new hires. Also, while there are a considerable number of customizations that can be made to help with the interface, I’m a creature of habit and afraid to change what my staff knows, even if it might solve my frustration with the training that is needed to get new staff members comfortable with AIM.
FOLSOM, CA: Erin Gorrell, owner of Folsom Bike
We have always used Ascend for our point of sale system. What I like is that it is intuitive and very user-friendly. It allows us to seamlessly create sales, quotes, layaways and special orders. It also allows us to have real-time inventory management, multi-store integration and supplier integration. It is also integrated with Listen 360 for customer reviews and Locally.com. These integrations make this extremely cost effective for a multi-store business like ours.
One of the things that I don’t like about Ascend is that when vendor updates are downloaded they are not always updated seamlessly and this leads to product changes that we might not have wanted to. However, Ascend has been working on a fix for this, and it will be resolved with the latest update. I wouldn’t consider switching to a different system as the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks it has in improving our day-to-day business.
PORTLAND, Oregon: Tom Martin, sole proprietor TomCat Bikes
The system I use is Lightspeed. I’m running it as a solo trader, but overall it’s ok. I think there are some very simple improvements that could be added at no cost that would make life easier for solo retailers and mobile stores. It’s annoying to have additional core functionality behind a paywall and the workarounds I endure to save hundreds of dollars a month on integrations and apps are annoying. Some examples of this are having to copy/paste phone numbers from another app to text customers; inability to search for customer or bike details other than first and last name; and having to use rigorous inventory management on all SKUs involved in a bike build. After a decade of polite (and not-so-polite) requests, Lightspeed has rolled out a tipping option for customers at its bike shops. I guess that’s progress, but it also seems too little too late, since it’s the basis of all the other service areas that they provide POS systems for.
BENTONVILLE, Ark.: Jannie Fitzgerald, co-founder of Buddy Pegs Family Ride
We were early adopters of Lightspeed Cloud; we like that it is very user friendly and easy to train staff. For the price, it has a ton to offer. The various integrations all make it easy to customize to our needs. We also like the online tech support chat resource. This has been very helpful in helping us overcome some issues without having to sit and wait on the phone. At the moment, there’s not much we don’t like about the system, and we wouldn’t consider switching to another system, but I’m working remotely this summer, and we want Lightspeed to allows to adjust or work on customer tickets (layaway and service) when the register is closed. I also wish a few of the key integrations, such as SMS and bike rental management, were part of Lightspeed’s standard service fee, but we have to pay extra for them.
HATTIESBURG, Mississippi: Jenny Moore, co-owner/manager of Moore’s Bicycle Shop
We may be one of the few stores that does not use a POS system in our store. Instead, we designed our own system to observe our key performance indicators in a very simplistic way. Our system is economical and complete with a calculator and paper receipts. It takes about an hour or two to manually add the necessary numbers to our profit and loss summary, key performance indicators, and employee output. I’ve thought about using a POS system before, but the idea doesn’t stick around for long. I appreciate that this works for other stores, but I really like/prefer our method. It’s precise and easy to follow.
CHAMPLIN, Minn. : Pam Sayler, owner of Trailhead Cycling
We use Tri Technical Solutions, AMSi. What we like is the familiarity we have with it and its interface with our website. Integrating our credit card processing into the system allows us to reduce processing fees and the new version offers more flexibility and inventory per location. One of the things we don’t like about our POS system is that it takes too many clicks to complete tasks. The “quick sells” feature has too many buttons. We purchased other systems, but couldn’t find any that would be an easy migration. The ongoing cost of a POS system is part of the business; it’s up to us to make it profitable by understanding and using the software to its full potential. Having access to technical support is crucial. I recommend getting the unlimited plan, taking the time to learn the software, and creating standards for descriptions, so product research is cleaner and easier. Good data in means good data out.