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Starring Role

Point-of-sale software is earning rave reviews as an all-in-one way to track your company's sales.

Your cash register rings up sales all day long. But did you know it can ring up sales in more ways than one? Used correctly, your cash register has the potential to generate a wealth of information-information you can use to fine-tune your sales efforts.

You need the right tools to harness that information, however, and that's where point-of-sale (POS) software systems come in. POS software records each sale when it happens, so your inventory records are always up to date. Better still, you get much more information about the sale than you could gather with a manual system. By running reports based on this information, you can make better decisions about ordering and merchandising.

Consider just a few of the things you can do with a POS system:

You can analyze sales data to maximize your return on investment. By knowing how well all the items on your shelves sell, you can adjust purchasing levels to prevent running out of popular items and letting unpopular ones gather dust. You can also use sales information to monitor the effects of markdowns and price adjustments, as well as modify pricing to improve inventory turnover.

You can maintain a sales history to help adjust your buying decisions for seasonal purchasing trends.

You can track sales activity by salesperson to compute commissions and monitor performance.

You can improve pricing accuracy by integrating bar-code scanners and credit card authorization ability with the POS system.

You can maintain customer histories and mailing lists for promotional and marketing purposes.

Popular POS software systems include Business Controller Plus, from MicroBiz; The General Store, from Crichlow Data Sciences; Keystroke POS, from Specialized Business Solutions; and SellWise, from CAP Automation. These systems enable you to use add-on devices at your checkout stations, including electronic cash drawers, bar-code scanners, credit card readers, and receipt or invoice printers.

POS packages frequently come with integrated accounting modules, including general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, purchasing and inventory control systems-as well as modules that keep track of employee time and attendance, payroll and security. In essence, a POS system is an all-in-one way to keep track of your business's cash flow.

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This article was originally published in the August 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Starring Role.

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