Making the Upgrade

Receipt printers on point-of-sale systems often bear the brunt of the checkout workload. The units break down, need paper replenishments and suck up energy. Instead of allocating big-budget dollars to install costly new point-of-sale systems all together, many retailers are making small but smart investments in durable, reliable and flexible printers that cut back on energy consumption, make the lines go faster and have a longer shelf life. 


Chain Store Age spoke with Michael Hanson, VP sales and marketing for Edison, N.J.-based Star Micronics America — a subsidiary of Star Micronics Company Ltd. and producer of point-of-sale printers for the retail industry — about how retailers can make the most of its point-of-sale printer technology and what they can expect from the devices moving forward.


What trends are you seeing in the point-of-sale printer category right now?


Retailers are becoming increasingly more eco-conscious when it comes to tech-purchasing decisions. The implementation of new green technology offers merchants the ability to reap savings through reduced energy consumption and a lower total cost of ownership. Many printers on the market right now consume less power than ever before by shutting off when not in use. They can also be configured to use less paper, which in turn reduces paper-supply costs. 


Retailers can also print more receipts — and smaller ones in terms of width and length — on one roll at a time, so managers and employees don’t have to stop what they are doing to replace the paper in a printer. This, of course, keeps everything running smoothly and ultimately impacts customer service.


How has this area been affected by the recession? 


Although the recession was responsible for stripped technology budgets over the last several years, many merchants are ready to invest again. However, companies are still shy on spending big in areas they can avoid. That said, they have to decide whether or not implementing certain technologies is something they need or just something they want. In response, there has been an increase in interest in the receipt printer business because not all retailers are ready to invest in new point-of-sale technologies right now. We expect this growing momentum with printers to continue throughout the new year. 


How can retailers get the most out of their printer systems without breaking the bank?


Retailers can seek out one-stop-shop receipt units where all the parts and software are included in one box, from an internal power supply and interface cable to power cables, mounting kits and paper rolls. Savvy retailers can also use their point-of-sale systems and peripherals as marketing tools to recruit new customers and drive current customers back into the store with timely promotions. This can be accomplished through a variety of simple ways, such as printing coupons or promotions directly on receipts. [A company] can make better use of receipt real estate by drawing attention to different initiatives, from its online presence and social networking initiatives to its loyalty rewards program. 


What other trends do you expect to see moving forward?


Portable, mobile receipt printers will become more prevalent in 2011. These systems are usually tied to a handheld mobile computer that wirelessly prints receipts on the spot. For example, some retailers, such as Sam’s Club, allow associates to approach shoppers waiting in the checkout line to scan their items into the POS system through the handheld device.


However, many retailers don’t have the latest technology that allows receipts to be printed on the spot, and that is unfortunate because so many people want receipts, especially around the holidays. 


Did the portable receipt printer trend grow over the holiday season?


Oh, absolutely. Many retailers sought line-busting applications by using mobile computers and portable receipt printers as a part of an effort to increase customer throughput during such a high-traffic time. The devices increase customer service not only by meeting shopper needs faster than ever, but can ultimately improve sales. Some of these systems are just 2 in. wide, with sleek designs, LCD displays, a magnetic stripe reader and a Bluetooth connection. This will show up even more over the next few years, and we expect shoppers will be so glad it did.