Ask Michelle Baker, Senior Marketing Manager at QuickBooks Point of Sale about whether a small retailer should buy her company's product or not, and you'll get an answer you weren't expecting.

"Small retail customers pretty much go into a coma when you bring up terms like "Point of Sale." They don't have the time to talk about technology. And they sure don't want to hear about spending money they don't have.

What they need is sanity. Because the challenges they face every day make them positively nuts."

Right. So...can technology like Intuit QuickBooks Point of Sale make a difference?

Says Ms. Baker: "No one ever went into retail so they could become an IT whiz. Instead of focusing on what the technology does, we zero in on what small retailers have to do.

"Before you buy any technology, consider carefully what you need to automate, because POS is not something you buy on a whim. Even if is free." (The company is currently offering QuickBooks Point of Sale 2013 free for 30 days.)

Ms. Baker describes QuickBooks POS as "the first place to go when you open the shop doors in the morning—and the last stop to make at closing." Got an example of that, we ask. Without hesitating, she answers, "Absolutely. Let's start with the craziness of managing inventory.

Overwhelmingly, small retailers cite "inventory" as something they'd love to automate. However, they also state emphatically that they don't need "fancy inventory management."

We've all seen those fancy versions in big retail environments, like Target or Macy's—you ask the clerk if there are any more blue pillows; they whip out a little hand-held computer, talk to the guys in the stock room and produce what you're looking for.

Very impressive. And waaaaaaaaay too much firepower.

At it's most basic, retail comes down to two things: Getting product in—and then, getting that same product out. At a profit. "Inventory Management" breaks down to a few important categories:


1. Buying & Selling

  • Track every item: Exactly what it is, (color / size / feature) how many you bought, and what you paid for it.
  • Establish your mark-up.
  • For each item, keep a running total of the quantity you have on hand.
  • Monitor precisely when people bought what.
  • Record what colors / sizes / features sell best.
2. Managing Vendors
  • Maintain a current list of your vendor contacts for re-orders.
  • Know your customer number for each vendor.
  • Keep a running total of all your orders-to-date. Good customers get better terms.

3. Tracking Profitability

  • Determine what you're losing to "shrinkage" (damage and/or shoplifting).
  • Know your Star Salespeople—and your peak selling days / times.
  • Do a month-end review of each item to see:
    • How long it took up valuable shelf (or hanger) space
    • How many units you sold at full price
    • What percentage discount you gave to get rid of it
    • How many more you should order, and when

Using a spreadsheet for all of it? You're not alone. But research shows that an average of 80% of audited spreadsheets have errors. And almost all small retailers who use spreadsheets report that they're not very religious about keeping them up-to-date.

We asked Michelle: What does QuickBooks Point of Sale do to improve over spreadsheets?

"For one thing, spreadsheets are all about manual entry. There's your 80% error rate. But another critical thing to remember: Spreadsheets deliver data. Point of Sale delivers information. Because the whole point of all that data is that you can analyze what you've got—and make smarter decisions.

And there we were, thinking POS was some kind of "cash register."

We recommend you do your own research before you invest in any kind of Point of Sale system. Right now, Intuit is offering their QuickBooks Point of Sale 2013, free for 30 days. Definitely worth the download.

And if you're actually in the market for a system, Intuit currently offers theirs with a pretty big deal: When you buy QuickBooks POS 2013 and sign up for Intuit Payments, they'll throw in the hardware (retail value: $600) FREE.

Download the free trial today or call 866-379-6636 to learn more and speak to a Point of Sale expert.