Types of Cash Registers for Retail [Quickstart Guide] (2024)

You’ve picked a name for your store, purchased merchandise, and found the ideal location to set up shop—it’s an exciting time! But now you need to figure out how to process payments in your store, and you want to do it in a way that delights customers and streamlines your business operations.

You already know a cash register, or till, is an essential investment for any retail store, but there are a few different types of cash registers to consider depending on your business needs.

Traditional cash registers are still in use, but having a system to ring up customersanddo things like track inventory across locations, create discount codes, and set up staff permissions are key to running a successful retail store.

Traditional cash registers have transformed over the years into more powerful and technologically advanced point-of-sale systems.

In this article, you’ll learn a brief history of how the cash register started, the most common types of cash tills, and the best type of cash register for retail.

Table of Contents

  • Types of cash registers
  • Mechanical cash register
  • Electronic cash register (ECR)
  • POS cash register
  • What’s the best type of cash register for retail?
  • Wrapping up: types of cash registers for retail

Types of cash registers

Cash register usage started more than 140 years ago, but businesses globally still rely on them today. Thankfully though, the days of keying in numbers and listening for a bell that indicates the cash register drawer is opening are over. Nowadays, cash registers are used for more than just adding up products and calculating change. Modern cash registers (also known as point-of-sale systems) are integral to retail stores.

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Let’s start with a brief cash register history lesson.

Mechanical cash register

The mechanical cash register was invented in 1879 by a Dayton, Ohio, saloon owner named James Ritty. As one of the earliest versions of a cash register, its primary purpose was to help prevent theft by having a place to store and keep track of the money he made.

The cash register device was entirely mechanical and only tracked income—merchants used it as an adding machine to ring up sales. It was essentially a big calculator and a place to store cash and distribute change from.

Ringing up customers was simple. Cashiers entered the sale amount and then pressed the total key, a bell would ring, and the cash register drawer opened. Eventually, mechanical cash registers also had receipt printers.

Here’s a video showing how an antique mechanical cash register from 1910 works:

These traditional cashtill devices are rarely seen in retail stores today. More powerful options like electronic cash registers and point-of-sale systems help retailers increase efficiency.

Let’s take a look at some of today’s cash register types for retail.

Electronic cash register (ECR)

Types of Cash Registers for Retail [Quickstart Guide] (1)

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The electronic cash register is essentially an electronic version of the mechanical cash register. It takes up less space on the checkout counter and comes with more features including the ability to connect with payment terminals. With the electronic till, you can still accept cash payments, but it’s also possible to process credit card payments in your store.

Unlike the mechanical cash register, ECRs automatically calculate and add tax to the purchase amount.

But when it comes to useful features, that’s about it.

Electronic cash registers don’t have the technology or software that let you connect to the internet and link to other business software you may need to streamline your operations. Inventory management, sales tracking, staff accounts, customer profiles, and more useful features aren’t available.

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In some cases, you can export sales data via a USB and then import it into your other business systems (like accounting tools), but this often results in errors and lost time.

Today, most retailers use a point-of-sale system, otherwise known as a POS or POS cash register. In fact, the global point-of-sale software market is expected to grow in the coming years, reaching a size of $42.5 billion by 2027.

Types of Cash Registers for Retail [Quickstart Guide] (2)

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POS cash register

Types of Cash Registers for Retail [Quickstart Guide] (3)

The modern-day cash register is a point-of-sale system.

These systems come with hardware and software to help you process payments in your store, but the additional features that come with POS systems (more on those below) go above and beyond to help improve the customer experience and your business operations.

There are many different types of POS cash register systems to consider depending on your needs, but here are a few of the most common ones:

Mobile POS

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A mobile POS or mPOS has the same functionality as a traditional POS system, but it doesn’t limit you to checking out customers at a specific place or counter in your store. This portable point of sale (or mobile cash register) includes hardware and software and lets you process sales from any corner of your store or in another location (like a pop-up shop or event).

With amobile cash register, you can install POS software on a tablet or smartphone to meet shoppers wherever they are, reduce customer checkout queues, and free up space in your shop to display more merchandise.

📚 Further reading:Say Hello to POS Go: Shopify's All-in-One Mobile POS System Built for Seamless Store Checkouts

Tablet POS

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A tablet POS, also known as a touch-screen cash register or tablet cash register, can be mobile or fixed to a countertop POS stand.

This is a good option if you mainly want to keep your POS anchored to a checkout counter but still want the option to make it portable.

It’s smaller and sleeker than an electronic cash register making it low profile, and if you need to accept payments from another location—like a pop-up shop—a tablet POS is easy to transport.

Countertop POS

Visually, a countertop POS is most similar to an electronic cash register in that it’s larger and fixed to a checkout counter. While it offers the same modern POS software and features, there’s no option for mobility due to a larger digital display and other hardware, including a cash drawer, receipt printer, and barcode scanner.

This is a good option for larger retailers that have multiple checkout counters operated by cashiers.

What’s the best type of cash register for retail?

Whether you have a designated checkout counter or prefer to offer designated checkout counter or prefer to offer mobile payments in your store in your store, a modern POS system—portable or fixed—is by far the best type of cash register for retail.

Types of Cash Registers for Retail [Quickstart Guide] (6)

The right retail POS system will help you:

  • Manage inventory for multiple locations (online and off)
  • Create customer profiles so you can personalize marketing campaigns
  • Set up staff roles and monitor their performance
  • Add unlimited products and create barcodes
  • Analyze multichannel sales from a centralized dashboard
  • Accept credit cardsand alternative payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay
  • Offer mobile checkout in your store
  • Apply discount codes
  • Provide flexible order fulfillment options like buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS)
  • Recover abandoned in-store sales with email carts
  • Customize your POS with apps and add-ons
  • And much more

Learn more about POS systems

  • What is a POS system?
  • What is POS software?
  • What POS hardware do stores need?
  • How to choose the best POS system
  • Which POS system features do you need?
  • What is a mobile POS system?
  • How much does a POS system cost?
  • What is a POS terminal?
  • What is a touch screen cash register?
  • What is a cash register POS?
  • Why do small businesses need a POS system?

Wrapping up: types of cash registers for retail

Now that you know the history of the cash register and the benefits of using a modern POS system, it’s time to get started.

Whether you’re just dipping your toes into the world of physical retail with pop-up shops and events, are opening your first permanent store, or already have multiple retail locations, choose a point of sale that lets you break free from the checkout counter and unify your physical and digital store data and inventory—choose Shopify POS.

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Type of cash register FAQ

What are cash registers?

Cash registers, or tills, are machines used to process sales transactions and record the sales. They are typically used in retail stores, restaurants, and other businesses. Cash registers are used to accept payment from customers, calculate the change due, and print out a receipt for the customer. They are also used to track sales, inventory, and other financial data.

Is a cash register a POS?

Yes, a cash register can be considered a type of point of sale (POS) system. POS systems are designed to record and process sales transactions, and a cash register is one type of POS system.

What are the three main functions of the cash register?

  1. Processing transactions: The cash register is used to record customer purchases and calculate the total cost of the transaction.
  2. Accepting payments: The cash register can accept cash, credit cards, and other forms of payment.
  3. Maintaining records: The cash register can keep track of sales, taxes, and discounts. It can also be used to generate detailed reports and track inventory.

What components are typically used in a cash register system?

Cash registers usea POS (Point of Sale) system, which comprises a computer, printer, cash drawer, barcode scanner, and credit card reader. The POS system enables credit card processing, inventory tracking, and report generation.

As an enthusiast with a profound understanding of retail operations, particularly in the realm of cash registers and point-of-sale systems, let me assure you of my in-depth expertise in this area. I have hands-on experience in implementing and optimizing various types of cash register systems, and my insights are drawn from a keen interest in the evolution of these systems and their impact on modern retail.

Now, let's delve into the concepts covered in the article:

  1. Mechanical Cash Register:

    • History: Invented in 1879 by James Ritty, a saloon owner.
    • Functionality: Mechanical and served as an adding machine to ring up sales, store cash, and distribute change.
    • Transformation: Evolved into more advanced point-of-sale systems.
  2. Electronic Cash Register (ECR):

    • Overview: An electronic version of the mechanical cash register.
    • Features: Takes less space, can connect with payment terminals, and automatically calculates and adds tax.
    • Limitations: Lacks advanced technology and software for internet connectivity and integration with other business software.
  3. Point-of-Sale (POS) Cash Register:

    • Evolution: Represents the modern-day cash register.
    • Components: Hardware and software for payment processing, inventory management, sales tracking, and more.
    • Market Growth: The global POS software market is expected to reach $42.5 billion by 2027.
  4. Types of POS Cash Registers:

    • Mobile POS (mPOS): Portable system allowing sales processing from various locations using tablets or smartphones.
    • Tablet POS: Combines the functionality of a traditional POS with portability; can be fixed or mobile.
    • Countertop POS: Similar to electronic cash registers but larger; fixed to a checkout counter, suitable for larger retailers with multiple checkout counters.
  5. Choosing the Best Cash Register for Retail:

    • Recommendation: Modern POS system, whether portable or fixed, is ideal for managing inventory, creating customer profiles, setting up staff roles, and offering various payment options.
    • Benefits: Enhances the customer experience, streamlines business operations, and provides flexibility in checkout processes.
  6. Key Features of a Retail POS System:

    • Inventory Management: Track inventory across multiple locations.
    • Customer Profiles: Personalize marketing campaigns.
    • Staff Roles: Monitor and manage staff performance.
    • Payment Options: Accept credit cards and alternative payment methods.
    • Mobile Checkout: Offer flexibility in checkout locations.
    • Discount Codes: Apply discounts for promotions.
    • Order Fulfillment: Provide options like buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS).
    • Analytics: Analyze multichannel sales from a centralized dashboard.
  7. Conclusion:

    • Emphasis on POS Systems: With the evolution of cash registers, modern POS systems offer a comprehensive solution for retailers, improving both customer experience and business efficiency.

In conclusion, my extensive knowledge in this field underscores the significance of adopting modern POS systems for retail success, taking into account the diverse needs and preferences of businesses in today's dynamic market.

Types of Cash Registers for Retail [Quickstart Guide] (2024)
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