5-Point Checklist for Evaluating Thrift POS Systems


With numerous Point-Of-Sale (POS) systems available, evaluating and selecting the right one for your thrift store can be overwhelming.  Many vendors tout features that can be used for “all types of vertical markets.”  Yet, the thrift industry is often not included, or worse, gets lumped together with the “standard” retail industry.

But, a thrift store is not your standard retail business.  Everyday thrift practices, like production, are unnecessary in standard retail so most POS systems don’t have a pricing/tagging application.  Thrift inventory is comprised of many unique, one-off items in various conditions so the SKU list can grow very large.  Donations arrive every day so merchandise has a limited shelf life and needs to be pulled often.  Color-codes determine which items to pull as well as which items are on sale, so the checkout process must have flexible discounts based on item shelf time.

So, how do you choose the right solution to meet your thrift store’s needs?

When evaluating POS systems, your first step is to review solutions that are specifically designed for the thrift industry.  Then, make sure they perform the following 5 critical functions well:

  1. Efficient Pricing/Tagging Application

    This is what separates an ordinary POS system from one that is designed for the thrift industry. The tagging application must be easy to use and produce bar-coded price tags.  Since donations are diverse, inventory will be created by sorters “on-the-spot.” Once a tag is created, it should be recorded in the database so that managers will know “who’s making what” throughout the day.

  2. Secure, Flexible, and Fast Checkout

    The checkout process should be fast like at Costco.  With the right thrift POS, a cashier simply scans bar codes.  They should not have to select a department/category, enter prices manually, or figure out discounts using a calculator.  The credit card PIN pad must support EMV (chip) technology and be end-to-end encrypted to prevent data breaches.  The system should include flexible promotions like flash sales and color-codes so that discounts are automatically given.

  3. Sales Reporting and Data Analytics

    The most beneficial aspect of using a computerized retail solution is the visibility it provides and how it helps your decision-making process.  It should answer questions like, “Which items are selling the fastest or the slowest?”, “What’s my sell-through rate per department or category?” and “How did my price changes affect sales?”  Using data analytics, you can make changes and measure the results.  Then, repeat the process and methodically find the right answer.

  4. Inventory Management

    Donated inventory is hard to manage.  The right system will simplify the process by eliminating busywork and manual tabulation.  It will provide reliable inventory levels without requiring a physical count.  The key to maintaining an accurate inventory is to know when items should be pulled and automatically remove them from inventory when the time comes.

  5. Customer Management

    Nurturing customer relationships is important to your business.  One proven method is to offer a loyalty program.  With a loyalty program, you can measure customer preferences and shopping habits.  You can personalize communications to strengthen the customer experience.  You can provide special promotions to keep them coming back.  This will improve customer satisfaction and encourage referrals.

If the solutions you’ve been reviewing don’t provide these five critical functions of a robust POS system, you should look elsewhere.  Don’t re-engineer your business practices or settle for an inferior solution just because the selection process is daunting.  Insist on a solution that is built specifically for the thrift industry and meets all your needs.

Ultimately, the right POS system will streamline your retail operations, facilitate data-driven decision making, and produce significantly better results.


David Chang is the President and Founder of Foresight Automation, the innovative technology company behind Adaptive Merchandise Identifier (AMI). Built specifically for the thrift industry, AMI is one of the most comprehensive and effective POS / Retail Management systems on the market. For more information, visit www.fsautomation.com or call (949) 221-8563 to schedule a demo.

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