Best Convenience Store POS Systems

The best convenience store POS systems are easy to use and full of useful inventory management features.

Matthew SpeiserSep 14, 2020
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Convenience stores make up roughly a third of all retail outlets in the U.S. and have increasingly complex needs. One of the best ways for convenience store merchants to stay ahead of the curve is to invest in a powerful convenience store POS system. Having a strong convenience store POS system can make running transactions a cinch while automating many of your more time-consuming back-office obligations. Harbortouch, Square for Retail and ShopKeep are all up to the task thanks to their impressive combination of POS hardware and software.

Convenience stores are one-of-a-kind businesses. Generally speaking, they are expected to carry a wide variety of products, service a high volume of low-cost transactions and keep round-the-clock business hours. As such, their needs in a convenience store POS system are highly specific.

Hardware A POS system needs to come with hardware that is responsive to how the business operates. For convenience stores, that means providing a cash drawer, as many customers still prefer to pay for low-cost purchases with cash.

You’ll also want a credit card reader that can accept magstripe, chip card and contactless forms of payment. Because convenience stores attract a wide variety of clientele, it’s best to have a card reader that accepts the widest variety of payment methods.

Other products you’ll need include a barcode printer and scanner, as these tools can make your inventory management more efficient while eliminating errors. In addition, merchants will want to acquire a receipt printer and, potentially, a user-facing kiosk.

The user-facing kiosk can serve two purposes in a convenience store: Customers can use it to punch in orders if your convenience store has a prepared foods section. It can also be used as a display at checkout so customers can review their purchases.

One last hardware item to consider is an ATM machine, as these can increase foot traffic to a store. However, ATM machines are not technically a POS hardware item, and not all POS providers offer them.

Ease of use When running convenience store transactions, speed is the name of the game. Many convenience stores process hundreds of transactions daily. In order to do that efficiently, and without any mistakes, you’ll need a POS system that is easy to operate. With a convenience store POS system, that means your POS should have an interface that is simple and intuitive.

Generally speaking, you’ll want a touch-screen POS system without too much clutter. Buttons should be color-coded and large, and popular items should be easy to find.

The system should also be able to operate offline, and your POS provider’s customer support team should be able to provide 24/7 support, given that many convenience stores stay open 24/7. It’s a nice bonus if your POS provider offers a help center on its website with additional information on how to use your system.

Inventory management Convenience stores typically carry a lot of inventory, and there is also a lot of variety in the inventory they carry. Your convenience store POS system should be able to mitigate your inventory logistical headaches. This means being able to create and fulfill purchase orders directly from your POS.

You’ll also want your POS to keep track of your stock counts in real-time and alert you when any one item is running low. Some POS systems can even be programmed to create new purchase orders whenever a product is running low.

Other considerations include the ability to upload product catalogs into your POS, organize stock by category, add product variants and track and transfer stock across multiple locations.

Employee management Finally, the last criteria you should value in your convenience store POS system is its employee management features. Many convenience stores stay open round the clock. This means you’ll likely have at least two or three shifts of employees every day.

Your convenience store POS system should come with a time clock function that is able to accurately track when employees clock in and out. It’s an added bonus if it can export this information to your payroll software to help you calculate wages.

What’s more, you’ll want your POS to have job-based permissions, so that only managers can have access to sensitive information like sales data. Other useful features to have include a scheduling interface and employee ID codes so you can see who handled which transactions and when.

Harbortouch POS

Our first recommendation is Harbortouch POS. Harbortouch makes POS systems for a wide variety of business types, including convenience store POS systems. The best thing about Harbortouch is its hardware offerings. If you sign up for Harbortouch Elite, you’ll get a 15-inch touch-screen terminal with a powerful processor designed to handle a high volume of transactions.

You’ll also get a cash drawer, receipt printer, barcode printer and scanner, a customer-facing display and access cards for up to 10 employees. Harbortouch also provides additional hardware items that convenience store merchants may find useful, including a digital scale (for weighing produce) and ATM installation and management. What’s more, all Harbortouch hardware comes with a lifetime warranty.

In terms of payment processing, Harbortouch provides a card reader that can accept magstripe, chip card and contactless forms of payment. Note that if you want to use Harbortouch as your POS system, you also have to use Harbortouch as your payment processor. Payment processing fees with Harbortouch are quote-based. Harbortouch says it will offer new clients a “rate review” to ensure they receive the best rates available.

With Harbortouch Elite you’ll get to pick between four different POS software options. Convenience store merchants will most likely want to use the retail version of the software, which comes with the following:

Inventory management

  • Unlimited product variants.

  • Place purchase orders.

Employee management

  • Time clock.

  • Calculate commissions.

  • Job-based permissions.

Checkout

  • Layaway program.

  • Manage rentals.

  • Resell interface (consignment).

Customer relationship management

  • Loyalty program.

  • Gift registry.

Brand management

  • Manage social media accounts.

  • Aggregate store reviews.

Reporting suite

Remote access to POS via Lighthouse

The software isn’t the most advanced, although it does come with important convenience store features like a time clock and the ability to place purchase orders. There is also 24/7 customer support.

What’s more attractive about Harbortouch is the price: Customers can acquire all the Harbortouch Elite hardware and the retail software for a monthly fee of $49. That’s a lot cheaper than having to pay a lump sum for all your POS hardware. Note though that Harbortouch requires merchants to sign a three-year contract to use its POS systems.

Overall, Harbortouch is a good option for the convenience store merchant who is looking for a variety of different hardware products and an affordable rate.

Square for Retail

Whereas Harbortouch is a great option if you’re looking for low-cost and hardware options, Square for Retail is for the merchant who wants powerful and easy-to-use software for their convenience store POS system.

Square’s ubiquity in the POS market is partially because it makes products that are extremely user-friendly, and Square for Retail is no exception. Getting started is as simple as downloading the Square for Retail app to your iOS device, linking your business bank account and uploading your inventory catalog and employee roster. Once your information is in place, you’ll have access to the following functions:

Inventory management

  • Generate and print barcode labels.

  • Organize stock by category.

  • Transfer stock across locations.

  • Place purchase orders.

  • Low stock notifications.

  • Unlimited product variants.

Checkout

  • E-receipts.

  • Suggested tip.

  • Split tenders.

  • Partial payments.

Employee management

  • Time clock.

  • Job-based permissions.

  • Commission reconciliation.

  • Payroll add-on.

Customer relationship management

  • Save customer information.

  • Track purchase history.

  • Email marketing add-on.

  • Loyalty program add-on.

Reporting suite

  • Cost of goods.

  • Projected profit.

  • Gross sales.

  • Sales by category.

  • Labor vs. sales.

  • Discount analysis.

You’ll need an iPad to run the Square for Retail app, as the software is not yet compatible with the Square Register. Square does sell a variety of POS hardware products to fill out your system.

From the Square hardware store, you can purchase a card reader that can accept magstripe, chip card and contactless forms of payment ($49), an iPad stand ($199), a cash drawer (starting at $129) and a receipt printer ($299). Square also sells a variety of hardware bundles, starting at $535.

Aside from your hardware costs, you’ll also have to pay a monthly Square fee to use the retail version of the software. Certain features, such as Square Payroll, Marketing and Loyalty, will also cost an additional monthly fee.

When you use Square for your POS, you’ll also have to use Square’s payment processing. However, when you sign up for Square for Retail, you’ll get a generous payment processing rate of 2.5% plus 10 cents on all in-person transactions. Square for Retail also comes with a 30-day free trial.

All in all, Square is a great option for convenience store owners who want powerful software that can streamline a myriad of essential functions.

ShopKeep POS

Our last recommendation is ShopKeep POS, which offers the best of both worlds when it comes to hardware and software. ShopKeep offers three versions of its POS software — Basic, Essential and Advanced — so the features you receive with its system will vary slightly based on which plan you choose.

That said, however, even the Basic plan gives you access to impressive retail software (including automatic integration with ShopKeep Payments for in-house payment processing). Here is everything ShopKeep comes with:

Payments

  • Partial payments.

  • Open tabs.

  • Split payments.

  • Tip recommendations.

  • Perform refunds.

  • Apply discounts.

  • Print, text or email receipts.

Employee management

  • Time clock.

  • Job-based permissions.

  • Scheduling.

  • Cost of labor analysis.

Inventory management

  • Import unlimited SKUs.

  • Unlimited product variants.

  • Unlimited modifiers.

  • Upload product catalogs via CSV file.

  • Group products by category.

  • Customize tax rates.

  • Print barcodes.

Customer relationship management

  • Save customer information.

  • Rewards program (requires Advanced plan).

  • Gift card program (requires Essential plan).

  • Manage social media channels (requires Advanced plan).

Reporting suite

  • View sales activity in real-time.

  • Shift summaries.

  • Inventory value report.

  • Transaction history.

  • Marketing analysis.

  • View data on the go with ShopKeep’s Pocket App.

Multi-store management

  • Each location will require separate register licenses.

ShopKeep’s software can be paired with six different hardware bundles. The one that will most likely be of interest to convenience store merchants is the retail package. This kit comes with a cash drawer, iPad enclosure, barcode scanner, barcode printer, receipt printer and credit card reader that can take magstripe, chip card and contactless forms of payment.

Although you can purchase this hardware bundle from ShopKeep (pricing is quote-based), you also have the option to buy your hardware from third-party sellers or use devices that you already own.

In terms of software costs, ShopKeep charges $49 per month for the Basic plan, $79 for the Essential plan and $179 for the Advanced plan — all billed annually. If you choose month-to-month billing, the plans are more expensive.

Finally, ShopKeep includes in-house payment processing with ShopKeep Payments. If you choose to use ShopKeep payments (which you don’t have to) you have two options for credit card processing fees: flat-rate or interchange-plus.

For flat-rate pricing, you’ll pay 2.5% plus 10 cents for in-person, card-present payments. With interchange-plus pricing, on the other hand, you’ll receive a customized plan unique to your business.

Overall, with integrated payment processing, inventory-focused POS software and flexible hardware options, ShopKeep is certainly a convenience store POS system worth considering.

A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.