Will Cash Registers Eventually Become Obsolete?

Will Cash Registers Eventually Become Obsolete?

The whirring and dinging of the traditional cash register may seem like an intrinsic part of any retail establishment. However, the days of these machines as we know them are quickly coming to an end. Already, renown retail establishments including Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Barney’s New York have expressed a commitment to leaving them behind in favor of mobile solutions such as iPod Touches and a debit card machine and reader. Today, at least a quarter of the purchases made at J.C. Penney are conducted on an iPod Touch.

What’s so bad about the good old cash register, you might ask. As a matter of fact, it has several flaws: it ties staff to a fixed location instead of allowing them to be on the floor helping customers. Moreover, the machine itself takes up space that could be better used in displaying products. Finally, registers are more expensive than mobile solutions. For instance, an iPad and credit card reader cost about $1,500, compared to $4,000 for the old-fashioned cash register.

Cash Register Evolution

It has only been a few years since 2006, when technology trail-blazer Apple Inc. rolled out mobile checkout solutions in its stores. However, customers have eagerly embraced the convenience, speed and streamlined approach of this purchasing method. Whether a consumer is buying high-end shoes and handbags at a Coach store or purchasing groceries or school supplies at Walmart, the stampede toward mobile solutions such as iPads or a debit card machine and reader is only growing more frantic by the day.

Of course, not all of the kinks have been totally worked out yet. At least for now, there is no way to accept cash payments on a debit card machine and reader. What’s more, there is still a sizable segment of the population that remains squeamish about technology, particularly when it comes to computers, the Internet and their personal privacy and security. Nevertheless, the handwriting appears to be very clearly written on the wall: cash registers are definitely on the endangered species list. It might not be long until we need to visit a natural history museum if we want to get a look at these once ubiquitous retail store fixtures.