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What is a Portable Cash Register?

Danielle Collard
17 Jun 2024

One of the consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic has been a rise in new, innovative ways of serving customers. Retail businesses are relying less and less on counter service and the hospitality industry is continuing to move away from bar service. So what is the importance of portable cash registers for small businesses? What does a modern portable cash register even look like?


What’s the difference between a cash register and an EPOS?

Since its 19th century invention, the evolution of the cash register (or till) has been a series of responses and solutions to the needs of businesses to securely and accurately process transactions in each new era. Early innovations, such as the ringing of a bell on opening, often strove to reduce staff theft. Though still before the portable cash register UK based Gross Cash Registers Ltd designed a register that could convert pre-decimal currency into modern British currency.

Despite these innovations, for a long time, the cash register remained a relatively simple device. Until the advent of the modern computer, cash registers were little more than calculators for adding and totalling purchases with a cash drawer attached. There were many small innovations that added conveniences for businesses, but everything stayed more or less the same for a long time.

An EPOS could be described as a modern electronic cash register. But with modern computer software, the basic functionality of the cash register has expanded far beyond 19th-century imagination. 

EPOS systems are equipped to anticipate and meet the needs of businesses everywhere, prioritising speed, data collection and accuracy. A good EPOS is the central hub of any business, detailing where money is made and lost, managing stock, staff and security, helping with taxes, implementing promotions, discounts and refunds. Thanks to modern computing, the same calculator, cash register and printer combination can manage and document the entire business.


Portability: the next step?

One could argue that businesses have been using portable cash drawers since the invention of the pocket. But the true portable till was initially a calculating cash drawer that could be strapped to the body and carried, and was a blessing to market vendors everywhere. 

Being able to move around without leaving your cash and coin and being able to process sales anywhere provides a freedom staff and business owners have long wanted. Restaurants and cafes have resorted to purses in pinafores to make sales and give change at tables and retailers continue to lose stock being predictably tied to their counters. But the increasing reliance on debit card payments has been a gamechanger for retailers in need of a portable cash register.

For most businesses, a portable card machine has meant taking payments away from the till, to carry receipts back and process the transactions behind the bar or counter. But with new cloud technology, and the development of mPOS (Mobile Point of Sale), a portable device no larger than a mobile phone could now help you manage your whole business. You and your staff can roam free from the counter, making sales with a till in your pocket.

How do mPOS devices work?

Mobile point of sale devices are portable, battery-powered cash registers. They are very small devices given the amount of information that they carry. They take that information from a business’ “cloud”. Cloud-based POS systems store a business’ data on internet servers, which saves space on the tills themselves, making them run faster and last longer. So mPOS devices need a strong wifi connection to connect to a cloud system and download everything from product names and prices to any customer data or sales reports you may want to look at.

Most mPOS devices will not have receipt printing capabilities, as a receipt paper holder would make the tablet or mobile device much larger than it needs to be. However, EPOS software can now send receipts by email, and many businesses now prefer to use email receipts. This is not usually the case for card machines, but these receipts are smaller and easier to accommodate.

If you’re looking for a portable cash register with credit card processing, many businesses will require two separate pieces of hardware, though many compact card readers are on the market, so this should not impact the mobility of roaming staff. 


Why portable cash registers matter!

The need to have quick and easy access to your business data makes the cloud-based software of Epos Now more vital than ever. Restaurants have orders and bills that need to update without the continual referral to the bar. Roaming staff members can update a bill, and move on to the next table right away. They can remain on the floor taking orders and engaging with diners for longer, making the business more efficient.

But this evolution is not limited to the hospitality industry. Supermarket chains have already taken several steps along the portable road, implementing scan-as-you-go1 devices customers themselves can use[1]. While this may be some way off for most small retailers, the portable cash register can free the cashier from the counter, allowing them to roam the floors with their customers. This increases the contact time between staff and customers, creating more opportunities for upselling and building customer loyalty through stronger relationships.

For both industries, carrying your business in your pocket means the stock count is reduced, and ordering the next delivery is just a matter of a few taps of the screen. The modern portable cash register is a technology that has the potential to revolutionise customer service.

In this competitive environment, the latest technology and the benefits they bring have become part of maintaining a strong image. Customers can enter businesses, confident that their smartphone payment technology will be accepted on up-to-date card machines, and can feel at ease with staff members being more visible than in businesses where staff are tied to one sales location.

  • An affordable, top-of-the-range mobile till

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