Best POS systems for retail – TechRadar

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2021-10-01 13:58:11 – Sarah Rogers

If you’re searching for a retail POS system that allows you to track stock levels, automate sales reports on demand, and switch quickly between payment types from anywhere—even when your network connection is down—you’re in the right place. This article is all about the very best retail POS systems on the market.

Forget creaky old cash registers and perfecting a chorus of “cash or credit?” throughout your working day. The best POS systems for retail offer much more than standard payment options: from instore tap-and-go NFC services like Google Pay and Visa’s Tap to Pay to accepting popular digital wallets like Venmo for e-commerce if you have an online shop.

With so many new ways to pay, you need a retail point of sale system that can keep up with your customer’s preferred payment methods. In this article, we scrutinize the best POS systems for retail businesses, weighing up the pros and cons of each so you don’t have to.

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What is a retail POS system?

A quality retail POS system combines point of sale software and hardware that maximizes the efficacy of retail store operations.

You can use your retail POS system to do the basics like taking payments from customers, refunding them when necessary, issuing store credit and gift cards, signing them up to loyalty systems and calculating sales tax. That’s just the start of a retail POS system’s benefits.

Pro Tip 💡

Card is tapped onto a SumUp POS payment terminal

(Image credit: Obsahovka Obsahovka from Pexels)

Read our retail POS hardware guide , to wise up on the questions you should ask POS providers to find the best retail equipment for your business—before committing to any long term contracts.

It’s difficult to list the range of advantages different retail POS systems can offer your business, purely because of how many there are. Others include helping you identify areas to upsell stock; adapting product offers for customer personalisation; employee management tools, and helping you keep on top of the latest PCI compliance to dodge data breaches.

Modern retail POS systems often also help unify sales management for physical and digital stores, so you can manage all sales channels in one helpful system.

1. Square POS

Best all-around POS system for small or mobile businesses

Reasons to buy
+ No monthly fees + Customizable hardware options + iOS and Android supported + Take payments offline
Reasons to avoid
Expensive for large businesses

Square POS systems for retail homepage

Square is one of the most popular POS systems (Image credit: Squarespace)

Square is a popular POS system option for small retail businesses, that has no set-up fees or monthly POS subscription fees. It’s easy to unbox, set up and use with iOS and Android devices. Perhaps an even bigger bonus is that Square’s POS hardware, like the Square POS Reader, is provided for free.

The trade-off is that Square charges a transaction fee that may be higher than some other retail point of sale options. If your business does a large number of credit card transactions, that might make Square POS a prohibitively expensive option.

That said, with its ability to plug the card reader hardware directly into your phone or tablet, Square is an ideal choice for flexible, mobile retail businesses that want to stay light on their feet.

There’s also an offline POS mode, so you can still process transactions in areas with poor connectivity or no Wi-Fi, which is perfect for vendors who travel to crowded conventions. An option to split the bill makes it easy for customers to pay partially with a gift card or cash.

2. Shopify POS

Best POS system for online retailers

Reasons to buy
+ Web and in-person integration + Easy to use + Great customer support
Reasons to avoid
Additional cost for hardware Cannot use offline

Best POS systems for retail

Shopify is a powerful e-commerce POS system (Image credit: Shopify)

You might be familiar with Shopify as a powerful e-commerce solution, which it certainly is. However, adding a simple card reader to your Shopify setup enables you to integrate your brick-and-mortar sales with your online ones, making it a great option for businesses doing robust sales both in-person and online.

But there is an additional expense for the Shopify POS hardware, and unlike Square, Shopify charges a monthly fee ($29/month for the most basic option). It has more options for larger businesses, though. At $299/month, Advanced Shopify is a full suite of business management tools, including staff tracking and advanced analytics.

That said, even Shopify’s basic POS option comes with a few nice features, like unlimited stock and 24/7 customer support. While this makes it an excellent POS provider, note that you cannot take transactions in offline mode, making it less ideal for mobile retail stores.

Shopify POS works on iOS and Android, making it easy to integrate with most devices, and the online help center and customer support are top-notch.


A great option for small businesses

Reasons to buy
+ No fixed contracts + Integration with popular services like Zettle, Sumup, Tide, Worldpay and Xero + 14 day free trial + Built by retailers, with small and independent retailers in mind
Reasons to avoid
Not as easy to use Separate payment provider required 24/7 support not available, but close with 9am to midnight support 7 days a week

Best POS systems for small business

AirPOS is a lesser-known POS system but works great for small retailers (Image credit: AirPOS)

AirPOS isn’t as well known as competitors like Square, but it’s a great choice, particularly for small retailers. It requires no fixed contracts, making it perfect for small businesses that want to stay light on their feet. There’s also a 14-day free trial, so you can see for yourself if the service works for you.

Unlike some of its competitors, you’ll need to integrate AirPOS with a companion service in order to take payments, which ultimately means more research for your business. However, their back-end integrations make AirPOS a worthwhile, powerful POS system, and choosing your own third-party payment service gives you a bit of flexibility when it comes to things like transaction fees.

There is a wide variety of hardware options to pair with AirPOS, available through UK-based company StoreKit. The ability to customize what hardware you need enables you to start small and add more as your business grows.

For larger businesses, AirPOS has a substantial Pro POS package, which includes options like adding a loyalty program and integrating with Shopify.

4. Lightspeed POS

Best for businesses with flexible needs

Reasons to buy
+ Bespoke POS systems + Powerful software
Reasons to avoid
Only available on Apple Monthly fee

Best POS systems for retail

Lightspeed is a good all-around option for a POS system (Image credit: Lightspeed)

Lightspeed POS is particularly well-geared for restaurants, but it’s also a smart option for your retail businesses, particularly if you have custom requirements.

Unlike some retail POS competitors, Lightspeed point of sale only provides bespoke solutions. So, if you’re looking for a quick-and-easy POS solution, Lightspeed isn’t for you. If you want retail business POS customization however, Lightspeed’s POS hardware and software should cover exactly what you need.

Pricing is variable depending on your options, but expect to pay both a monthly fee (starting at around $69/month) and a standard transaction fee. Due to the added cost of getting a customized option set up, Lightspeed is probably better suited to a larger businesses budget.

Keep in mind that Lightspeed POS is only available for Apple devices, meaning there might be a learning curve for businesses currently using Windows or Android.

5. Helcim POS

A solid POS system geared toward small businesses

Reasons to buy
+ No monthly fee + Impressive features + Inventory management + Sales analytics
Reasons to avoid
Expensive for larger businesses

Best POS systems for small business

Helcim is a lesser-known POS option, but a great competitor nonetheless (Image credit: Helcim)

Canadian-based POS provider Helcim is another fine option for small businesses looking for a POS solution. Helcim has no monthly fees, which means no long-term commitments or contracts with fees based purely on transactions.

For businesses processing a large number of transactions, this might make Helcim prohibitively expensive, but it’s a great option for small businesses looking to upgrade their POS system.

You also get an impressive number of features with Helcim, like inventory management, analytics, and employee management. It has also recently added a feature to enable self-checkout, which is essential in an increasingly touchless world. There’s even a Fraud Defender, which will stop transactions coming from suspicious accounts.

Once you’ve set up your account with Helcim, the interface is easy to use, and there’s excellent customer service should you encounter any problems.

Helcim POS is compatible with both Mac and Windows, and it can be used on a tablet, mobile device, or desktop.


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