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Staffing the point of sale function

point of sale carolee colterOnce retail stores reach a point where it no longer works to have every buyer maintain the prices for their own products in the point-of-sale (POS) system, the question arises – how shall we staff the POS function?

 

Once retail stores reach a point where it no longer works to have every buyer maintain the prices for their own products in the point-of-sale (POS) system, the question arises – how shall we staff the POS function?

Who will enter and manage items and prices to keep the POS system current so that the front-end staff can quickly and accurately check out customers and the departments can track their margins? Should the POS and IT (Information Technology) functions be combined in one person?

For insight, I interviewed my colleague Jen Christopher. Jen is an information technology and point-of-sale consultant. She works with organizations to help them understand and get the best out of their technology. This includes all kinds of organizations, but especially food co-ops and independent natural health food retailers.

Should POS and IT be the same person?

In smaller retail operations, the POS and IT positions may be held by the same person, but that doesn’t mean the two roles are a good fit with each other. POS work is detail-oriented. It’s essentially data entry and many will find that boring. IT on the other hand is proactive, and involves troubleshooting and maintenance. It’s rare to find both sets of characteristics in one person. Larger stores can usually afford to have two separate positions. 

What would you look for in a potential internal POS staff candidate?

The biggest challenge is that the work can be boring and repetitive and requires rigorous attention to detail. You might be able to cultivate these qualities in staff. For example, a cashier who notices things that don’t operate as they should, who writes down items that don’t scan, and who understands how the system works on their end, could be a good candidate for a POS staff position. I like to administer a test to candidates. It’s excel-based and demonstrates ability to follow detailed instructions and catch discrepancies. 

Other indicators that an employee might be good for the POS job: a produce staff person who enters the produce prices, understands the system and knows how to ask for what they need. Or a receiver, who frequently catches things that are off, and is willing to bring up problems, even though it means more work for them. POS work could mean a move away from physical work that they might not enjoy.

Another qualification to look for is a flexible schedule to accommodate inventories. 

What are the main duties of POS staff?

In one scenario, the POS staff person comes in, enters data and leaves. In another scenario, they play a more proactive role. They create reports beyond what’s available in the system. They use existing reports to answer questions – for example, year-over-year sales. They might create movement reports but probably not margin reports (those would be provided by finance). They might process inventory numbers (though sometimes inventory companies will do that). For monthly or bi-weekly flyer programs, POS staff handles the prices when the flyers go into and out of effect.

What about fresh departments?

Unlike centre store departments, they may enter their own prices. Their items change so quickly that to restrict that process to a POS staff could cause bottlenecks. For example, prepared foods may change their recipes and need to change their POS entries accordingly. However, it should be the POS staff’s responsibility to check in with these departments. Right before quarterly inventory would be the perfect time. As for produce, it’s best to give them complete control over their own department’s entries. The only time the POS staff would be involved is right before inventory.

 

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