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Tips for buying office and retail essentials

Having the right tools at your fingertips makes starting and maintaining a thriving business easier. After all, stocking your office or retail store with essential equipment and supplies helps you stay more organized and on top of your daily tasks. Learn more about the essentials you should be considering along with some tips for buying some of the larger items with this quick guide.

Equipment and supplies to consider

Before you start shopping, it helps to have a clear picture of everything that you need. Every business has its own unique needs. For example, when you're starting a retail business, you're most likely going to want a cash register, signs for the door to indicate when you're open or closed, shopping bags and shelving. But when dealing with a more technology-centric business, you might focus more on computers, phones and office supplies. In general, most businesses shop for essentials like the following:

  • Cash boxes or cash registers to securely store money and keep track of sales
  • Paper goods like printer paper, card stock, notebooks and business cards
  • Mailing supplies like envelopes, mailers, boxes, an envelope sealer and stamps
  • Organization systems for paperwork such as binders, folders and filing cabinets
  • Electronics to power your business, including a computer, printer, phones, laminating machines, shredders and surge protectors
  • Office supplies like staplers, scissors, pens, tape and sticky notes
  • Break room essentials like a dustpan and broom, coffee pot, small refrigerators, tables and chairs

Guide to choosing a register

There's more to picking the right register than you might realize at first. For example, do you want something more traditional with a keypad, attached cash drawer and built-in receipt printer? Or do you want something that integrates more with your digital records, like a point of sale (POS) system would? Ultimately, your decision should be based on the features that the register offers. A few considerations include:

  • Receipt printers: Most cash registers have either ink printers or thermal printers for your receipts. With an ink printer, you'll have to replace the ink periodically. If you choose thermal printers, which use special heat-sensitive paper to produce images, you may run the risk of the print rubbing off or fading.
  • Cash drawers: Drawers come in many different sizes and security levels. The size dictates the amount of bills and coins you can store. Unless you intend to be handling large amounts of cash, you might opt for a smaller register with a drawer measuring 13 inches wide and deep. When you expect to be accepting cash more than credit cards, choose a larger model with drawers at least 18 inches wide and 16 inches deep to accommodate more money.
  • Credit cards: What type of credit card processing system do you need? You might need a mobile card reader that lets you check people out anywhere in your store or you might want a countertop station next to the register. You'll also need to choose a credit card processor. Call several processors to get pricing quotes, ideally getting interchange-plus rates.
  • Customer displays: Customers like seeing the exact price of each item as you ring them up. The customer display on your register might be a pop-up, rotating display or it could be a fixed, forward-facing display.

Guide to choosing electronics for your business

Cash registers aren't the only major purchase you're facing. Getting the right electronics is essential for smooth business operations. Examples of the equipment you might be considering include:

  • Computers or laptops for everything from record keeping to marketing. Desktops are typically more budget-friendly and durable but laptops offer extra flexibility for providing service outside of the office or working remotely.
  • Tablets may replace the need for your employees to have a laptop. They can also be a useful tool while working the floor in a retail environment.
  • Phone systems are a must, but smartphones are an alternative to traditional desk phones that allow your team to stay connected from anywhere and sync documents to your computer system.
  • Laminating machines let you preserve important documents and create your own long-lasting employee badges. When buying a laminator, consider the size of the machine, the available space in your office and the size of the items you'll typically laminate.

Tips for saving money on essentials

When it comes to choosing office supplies, make sure you're constantly asking yourself if the items you're considering are essentials or if they're just nice to have. Anything that's not essential should move to the bottom of your list, especially if you're trying to stick to a budget. Look for quality generic store brands for items like paper, staples and packing tape to save big on the small items.