Point of Sale Systems

June 1st, 2003 Australian Macworld, Software, Tech

What’s the one thing you never have enough of when you run a business? Most of us (and our banks) will chorus the same thing; money!

Truthfully though, as a business owner you only deal with money each month’s end, GST period or tax year. Plenty of business owners (and staff) will tell you the one thing there’s never enough of is time; to train people or deal with management issues like marketing and stock control, for example. So if you’re looking at a Mac-based point of sale system, the last thing you want is a big learning curve.

In comparing three Australasian POS packages, it’s perhaps the most important benchmark, followed by ease and comfort of use, adaptability to your needs and the professionalism of the product and the company that provides it.

Shopfront

We’re used to certain conventions in software use, and like it or not, the likes of Microsoft and Apple set the trends in the way we think as software operators. Where Shopfront shoots itself in the foot is in doing things ‘its own way’, forcing you through mindset changes you don’t need.

A potential downfall is having to input a salesperson for each sale. If you run a cash-only business like a store, even setting a salesperson as ‘C’ is an extra step you could do without. You also can’t set the preferences to let you turn off the receipt feature so you’re forced to print one every time.

As well, Shopfront also seems to send you on a long trip through several windows just to input or find the data you want. For fast turnaround selling it would come automatically after awhile, but it should be less clunky.

The look and feel of the software is also heavy-handed and unattractive, looking like it was written for a 1995 OS. Despite the solid reporting and management capabilities, it’s a clumsy program that’s hard to work your way around intuitively.

Pricing: $2,195 (three user license), $795 (single user license)

Specifications: PowerPC with Mac OS 7.5 or higher Classic only)

www.shopfront.com.au

Mac Business POS

More suited to a multi-user environment with differing levels of access, the NZ-made MacBusiness POS is built on Filemaker Pro, so you need the software on a central server and Filemaker Pro on each terminal (potentially a hidden cost).

It has a pleasant working interface and also one that lends well to the various functions in reporting and management. The use of keyboard, menu or barcode input also means it suits a cash-only retail environment despite all three packages seeming to have a commercial premises in mind.

Altering the preferences to your particular needs is easy and future changes, updates and improvements are planned that will further expand the adaptability. Connectivity to your receipt printer, EFTPOS terminal and cash drawer setup is easy and gives you control over your hardware setup, and the price is definitely a big selling point.

The only downside here is also the unavoidable receipt, but rather than select a salesperson for every sale, you log in once and conduct all sales and functions from one screen, which would speed things up in certain conditions.

Being a kiwi product, it’s also set to 12.5% GST by default, but all your preferences can be changed to reflect Australian tax laws.

Pricing: NZD$499 + GST (AUD$480 approx), single user license.

Specifications: Mac OS 8.1 and up, Mac OS X 10.0.4

www.macbusiness.co.nz/pos.htm

POS*IM

Of all three packages, POS*IM is the most flexible. It’s not the best looking or even the easiest to use, but whereas its competitors are fairly set in their ways, virtually every facet of operating POS*IM can be tailored not only to the way you make sales, assign salespeople and conduct POS business, but to your reporting. It seems every kind of summary you could conceivably use is built in, each open to endless tweaking.

It’s not a pretty program, looking in serious need of the Aqua treatment so much Mac software is getting lately, but it’s the easiest to integrate into (or replace) an existing system as it can import all your existing data, even from a spreadsheet if need be. The mechanics also make it easy to set up and operate. There’s no need for proprietary software, you just install it onto the server and copy the correct operating files to each terminal — they save data back to the single database file on the server, which is then all you have to back up.

www.symbiotic.com.au

The Verdict

All three programs export data cleanly to your accounts package, so the competition is down to adaptability to your operation, ease of use and the inevitable learning curve. While MacBusiness POS is the neatest looking, POS*IM is the more robust and adaptable. Both packages are easy to master but POS*IM edges out in front when it comes to hitting the ground running and flexibility to your needs.


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