The History of Cash Registers – The Origins

James Ritty a local US store owner invented the cash register in 1879. He had always experienced problems, because some of his employees would help themselves to his daily earnings. In order to find a solution, he endeavored to invent the cash register. It prevented his employees from opening the cash drawer so easily without him knowing, because the cash register would ring a bell after each transaction or when his staff opened the drawer. Because of its high pitched sound, the cash register bell has humerously been referred to as the "bell heard round the world".

Today, cash registers are most commonly found in retail stores. They are used to store transactional data, calculate price and change, as well as provide different payment options to the customer.

Cash Registers – Types

Compared to the humble beginnings of the first cash registers, which could only store cash safely and add single positions of revenue, the modern cash register has made significant advancements, Today it performs a variety of advanced functions. We divide cash registers into three main categories.

Standard Cash Register

You can find the standard cash register most commonly in small retail stores and restaurants. An integrated cash drawer now opens after the clerk makes a sale. The modern cash register allows the user to not only enter prices, but also allocate an item to departments (usually a group of articles), which the user has previously programmed. This gives the user the advantage of analyzing his sales data to see, which departments have sold the best. In addition, the ECR prints a receipt for the customer, thereby giving him a copy of the sales transaction for his own records.

The Modern Cash Register (ECR) and PC Based Systems (POS)

Yet, the modern tills no longer require the user to enter prices manually, hence reducing a potential source of errors. They allow the user to scan in items with the help of bar codes that uniquely identify an item for sale. The user can thereby enter price info automatically and book the item out of the store’s inventory. Many cash registers incorporate all the management features a store owner needs to operate his business. They even allow an online connection to an ERP system, which allows the manager to follow sales of items and manage re-order points thanks to the information that the register tracks and stores. Moreover, POS systems (Concerto and QTouch2, for example) can even track the purchasing behavior of returning customers in order to offer them special deals or target them with promotions.

Self-Ceck-Out Counters – the Cash Register of the Future?

The latest generation of cash registers comprises the experimental self-check-out counters, which allows customers to scan items themselves without the assistance of a clerk. The customer then pays with credit card or at a teller machine. However, this system is still in the experimental stage in most countries. In the USA large retail chains have already deployed such systems. Generally, they run around 10,000 USD. The extreme price still represents a large barrier to acceptance for most stores. It will therefore remain interesting to see what the future holds for the retail and restaurant industry.

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