Square for Retail Review – 2021

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For any retail operation, whether online or brick and mortar, having an efficient way to process payments is absolutely critical. Fortunately, technological progress has made the entire retail checkout process much smoother – and much cheaper for retailers. Gone are the days of clunky POS systems from legacy banks and expensive merchant accounts. Today, technology-driven companies like Square are making it much easier for retailers to run their businesses.

Square for Retail, otherwise known as Square Retail POS (point of sale), is a service available from Square, the popular financial services company. Square POS offers a simple yet powerful set of features and technology that enables small businesses to sell goods and accept payments via credit card, debit card, and cash. 

In this Square for Retail review, we will go over all the key points you need to know, including pricing, features, customer service, and more. 

Check out our roundup of the Best POS Systems

Square for Retail is a retail point of sale system and service for small businesses. It provides both the software and the hardware needed to sell goods and services, accept payments via credit card, send receipts, and even manage inventory.

There are essentially two parts to Square for Retail: the software side and the hardware side.

The software side runs all the backend functionality. Square’s slick apps and online applications communicate with banks and financial institutions to process payments and interact with your own systems to manage inventory, set pricing, and more. Square for Retail is a subscription service – the basic service is free, with a $60 monthly fee upgraded option available. Then you have the payment processing fees, outlined below:

  • In-person transactions – 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Online transactions – 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction 

The hardware actually processes payments from customers. Square’s hardware ranges from simple free swipe readers that simply plug into a smartphone or tablet, all the way up to full-scale register systems with large touchscreens and contactless payment terminals. Hardware is sold separately and is not included with a Square for Retail subscription. 

How Square for Retail is different

There are many POS systems and payment processing services available. So what sets Square apart? 

No monthly fee

The basic Square for Retail plan has no monthly fee, no setup costs, and no hidden fees. All you will pay with this plan is the payment processing costs for each transaction. Upgraded plans are also available, and you may need to purchase physical hardware. 

Square ecosystem

Square is more than just a point of sale system and payment processing service. They offer payroll, employee management, small business loans, and much more – and everything integrates together. 

Advanced analytics & inventory management

Square combines features to improve the efficiency of your business. This includes advanced sales analytics, intelligent inventory management, detailed reports, and more. 

Who Square for Retail is best for

Square for Retail is a good fit for just about any retail business or eCommerce store. There are a few groups that may benefit most:

Businesses of all sizes

From a startup to a large company, Square’s POS systems and payment processing services can fit the needs of any size business. Their free plan is best for new businesses, while larger companies may benefit from the custom pricing available exclusively to high-volume firms. 

Multi-channel retail operations

If your business sells both online and in-person, or even just in multiple physical locations, you can likely benefit from Square’s tools. Square Retail includes a free online store, tools for multi-location businesses, cross-platform inventory management, and more. 

Square for Retail features

Payment processing

Square for Retail provides the technology and financial services required to process payments via credit card and debit card. Square accounts are much simpler than traditional merchant accounts, and also much easier to sign up for – and per-transaction processing costs are similar. 

Inventory management

Square’s software includes an innovative inventory management system for retail companies. You can add unlimited items to the inventory system, set prices, monitor inventory levels, forecast future stock levels based on sales volume, print barcode labels, manage vendors, and more.

In-store and online selling

Square seamlessly integrates in-person retail sales with online eCommerce sales. For multi-channel businesses, features like the free online store, Instagram selling, social media promotion tools, and cross-platform inventory management will prove very useful.

Gift cards

Square lets you sell gift cards to customers, with their choice of physical plastic gift cards and eGift cards. Gift card costs are very low and are accepted seamlessly by any Square POS system or the Square app (iPhones/iPads and Android phones/tablets). 

Customer management

Square has powerful features to build customer relationships and loyalty. Automatically create customer profiles for repeat clients, build out a customer directory, analyze customer sales history from all channels, send Square Marketing email campaigns, and even create custom Square Loyalty programs to help retain customers. 

Analytics

Square for Retail provides detailed analytics and reports to help you understand (and improve) your business. Run reports for profit margins, cost of goods, vendor sales, and more, 

Other Square services

Square offers dozens of different services, all of which integrate seamlessly in one system. Pick and choose the services you need, including payroll, employee management tools like time tracking, apply for small business loans, and much more. 

Square for Retail pricing

Square for Retail has a few different plans available, starting at $0 per month.

Retail Free – $0 per month

  • In-person transactions: 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Online transactions: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
  • Includes free retail point of sale app
  • Free online store
  • Basic tools for inventory management
  • Unlimited items

Retail Plus – $60 per month per location

  • In-person transactions: 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Online transactions: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
  • Includes all features of the free plan, plus more
  • Advanced inventory tools
  • Advanced reports for retail
  • Square Team Management
  • Cross-location exchanges

Retail Premium – custom pricing

  • Requires contacting sales for custom pricing
  • Available to companies processing over $250,000 per year
  • Custom pricing on both monthly costs and processing rates
  • Includes all features of Plus plan, plus more
  • Exclusive discounts on other Square services (Square Payroll, Square Marketing, Square Loyalty and Account Management)

Overall, Square for Retail costs are very reasonable. Most retail stores with only one location can simply use the free plan, while multi-location businesses may wish to consider the Plus plan. 

Payment processing rates, which start at 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction, are fairly standard compared to competitors. While these costs can add up, they are an unavoidable part of accepting credit cards in your business. 

One other cost to keep in mind is hardware/Square point of sale systems. The above rates do not include full point-of-sale hardware or systems. You can simply use a tablet, or even a smartphone, with the Square app. However, most companies will wish to upgrade to a more full-featured POS system. Here is an overview of Square hardware pricing

Square hardware pricing

Most businesses will want to purchase a point of sale system to go along with their Square Retail subscription. From simple card readers to full-size touchscreen registers, Square offers a variety of solutions. 

Square Register – $799 or $39/month for 24 months

  • A fully integrated point-of-sale system
  • Large display touch screen and small display screen for customers
  • Accept payments via tap, swipe, or dip

Square Terminal – $299 or $27/month for 12 months

  • All-in-one credit card machine for payments and receipts
  • Accept payments via tap, swipe, or dip

Square Stand for Contactless and Chip – $169 or $16/month for 12 months

  • Requires iPad (sold separately) to use the POS app
  • Turn your tablet into a POS system
  • Accept payments via tap, swipe, or dip

Square Reader for Contactless and Chip – $49

  • A simple way to accept chip-enabled credit cards, plus Google Pay and Apple Pay
  • Accept payments via tap or dip 
  • Does not work for swipe cards

Square Reader for Magstripe – Free

  • Plugs into your smartphone or tablet
  • Accept swipe payments only
  • Works anywhere (good for mobile sellers, farmer’s market vendors, etc.)

For some businesses, multiple hardware items may be necessary. For example, a specialty grocery store may wish to have a full-sized Register at their primary checkout location, a Terminal at a secondary checkout, and a Reader for Magstripe for use at events and Farmer’s Markets. 

Accessories may also be required (or just helpful) for some businesses. Square offers a variety of optional accessories, including barcode scanners, receipt printers, scales, and more. 

Square for Retail customer service

Square does offer customer service for retail customers. Support reps can be reached via email or phone, during normal business hours. 

However, many customers have complained about the difficulty of contacting Square support. In fact, customer service is one of the main complaints that Square customers report. 

Fortunately, Square’s services and hardware are easy to use, secure, and stable. So, many businesses never have the need to contact support. Even so, it is certainly worth noting that Square is not known for great customer service. 

Pros and cons of Square for Retail

Retail businesses will want to select a payment processing and POS system to keep for the long term. With that in mind, it’s wise to weigh the pros and cons of Square before making your decision. 

Pros

  • The free plan is sufficient for many businesses
  • Competitive payment processing costs
  • Accept all payment types – card swipe, chip, and contactless NFC transactions
  • Powerful inventory management features
  • Advanced business analytics
  • Integrates with other Square services
  • Receive funds in your bank account in as little as one day (instant transfer available for an extra fee)
  • Excellent security and reliability 

Cons

  • Mediocre customer support
  • Plans do not include POS hardware (sold separately)

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