Retailers using mobile devices to unchain cashiers

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Some retailers are equipping their sales staff with mobile point-of-sale devices such as Apple iPod Touches so that they are no longer bound to their cash registers when making a sale.

The handhelds can scan barcodes and swipe credit cards for payments, while receipts can be sent to customers via email or to an in-store printer. “There’s no reason why an iPod Touch or an iPad shouldn’t replace an actual register,” says Urban Outfitters’ Calvin Hollinger. He notes that an iPod Touch costs a fraction of the cost of a cash register, and says that Urban Outfitters currently uses the devices to complete 10% of its transactions.

More iPod Touches will be deployed after the holidays, and Hollinger says 80% of the company’s salespeople could carry the devices by 2012. A National Retail Federation survey last fall found that just 6% of retailers said they used mobile POS devices, but half of the respondents had plans to implement them over the next 18 months.

For example, Nordstrom began rolling out 6,000 iPod Touches with scanning capabilities in July to its 117 full-price stores. Retailers that want to follow a similar implementation will need to foot the bill for purchasing the devices as well as deploying Wi-Fi in their stores. Such developments could hurt cash register sales, but NCR’s Scott Kingsfield says that as merchants adopt more mobile technology, NCR will develop more mobile-supportive hardware and software.

Wall Street Journal – Mattioli, Dana