This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Cash wraps, also known as cash wells and checkout counters, are the areas in stores that house point-of-sale (POS) systems or cash registers and where customers pay for their merchandise. A well-designed cash wrap can significantly impact your retail success and drive your business by increasing customer and employee satisfaction and sales and building your brand.
Follow the steps below to set up your cash wrap and maximize its potential.
Step 1: Place Your Cash Wrap Strategically
The first thing you will want to do is position your cash wrap strategically in your store. For US businesses, place your cash wrap to the left of the entrance. Customers naturally turn right when they enter a store, then exit to their left. Placing your checkout area on the natural exit path will ensure that you are not disrupting customer flow.
Once placed, leave enough space for customers to checkout, employees to work, ADA requirements to be met (at minimum), and merchandise to be displayed.
You also want to leave at least 2–3 feet of open counter space where customers can lay their selections. Leaving less space will make customers feel inclined to make smaller purchases, whereas leaving this amount of space or more will encourage customers to pick out more products.
Additionally, checkout counters are usually 30”–36” deep and 38” tall. Stores designed with parallel counters should provide at least three feet of space between them for employees to work. These parameters also meet ADA standards.
Measure the amount of square footage your cash wrap needs, see what that looks like in your space, and then choose a cash wrap design that is best suited for your business. A small storefront will likely want to choose something space effective, whereas a larger store might want to choose something that makes a bold statement and accommodates more registers.
You can check out our guide for more on planning your store layout and setting the rest of your store up.
Step 2: Choose Your Design
Choosing the right cash wrap for your space will come down to available square footage, what tasks need to be performed at your counter, and how many POS systems you need to accommodate. There are several different types of cash wraps, and you can even choose from custom options. However, every great cash wrap contains the elements listed above, illustrated in the image below:
Click through the headings below to learn more about the four main types of cash wraps.
Single Counter Cash Wrap
The single counter cash wrap has one counter that generally runs parallel to a wall. Of the cash wrap options, this one takes up the least amount of space, making it ideal for smaller storefronts and those that don’t need much space behind their counter. With its smaller size, there is also less storage and workspace behind the single counter configuration, making it best suited for stores that need it for limited activities.
However, single counter cash wraps can also be used for large retailers needing a long checkout with multiple registers and even for busy retailers needing multiple standalone checkout stations.
For example, grocery stores use single counter cash wraps because scanning and packing groceries are the only tasks that the counters need to host. Additionally, the single counter’s size allows grocers to fit more checkout stations in smaller square footage.
Depending on the materials and dimensions, the average cost of a single counter cash wrap can range from $400–$3,000. Most average around $600.
L-shaped Cash Wrap
The L-shaped or dual cash wrap has two separate counters: one typically used for displaying product or tasking and the other for checking out customers. For stores with heavier customer flow, you can also use both counters as checkout stations to move people out faster.
These counters are best suited for stores with more square footage, those with higher customer flow, and those that require tasks to take place at the register. For example, you will find dual cash wraps at many coffee shops, as this gives one side of the counter for taking orders and the other for distributing them to customers. Or you might find this arrangement at a fabric store, where one side is used for ringing up orders and the other for cutting down samples to size.
L-shaped cash wraps can range anywhere from $1,000–$5,000, with most options coming in at around $1,700.
U-shaped Cash Wrap
The U-shaped cash wrap has three counters that can be used for tasking or multiple cashiers. This is ideal for stores that need to have multiple people behind the register either to check people out or perform tasks. It is also great if you need to store a lot of items behind your register, as it provides the most storage.
For example, jewelers will often have U-shaped counters, as this allows multiple clerks to be behind the counter to help people look at jewelry. It also gives them maximum space to display their pieces and store supplies.
You will also find U-shaped cash wraps in stores that offer gift wrapping or shops that need a space for tasks performed as part of the checkout process. These are the largest cash wrap option, so businesses will sometimes even use this type of checkout counter as an element of their store design.
In addition to being the largest, U-shaped cash wraps are the most expensive cash wrap option, ranging from $1,200–$10,000. Most counters come in at around $2,500.
Custom Cash Wraps
For some retailers, a custom cash wrap is the best option—whether because of an irregularly shaped space, specific tasking criteria that need to be accommodated, or a design desire.
Custom-built cash wraps are usually quoted on an individual basis by a regional or local contractor. When looking for a contractor, keep these things in mind:
- Fabrication can take 3–10 weeks
- Total delivery and installation can take one to two months
- Portability is a consideration in case you ever move the business
There are also retailers that specialize in making custom cash wraps, so you can work with them if you are not in the market for a contractor.
Step 3: Stock Your Counter With a POS System
With your cash wrap selected and placed in your store, it is time to stock your counter with a POS system, prepare the space for tasking, and introduce your employees to the tools and systems located at the cash wrap.
The first activity that your checkout counter needs to support is the actual checkout. Generally, POS systems are placed to a side of a counter, which includes space for a salesperson, a card reader, necessary signage (like return policies or loyalty program information), customer-facing displays, and receipt printers. You should also keep change refills and extra printer paper close to your POS system for ease of use.
POS systems can be a huge asset for business and good ones can help you track inventory, sales, customer engagement, and so much more. There is an overwhelming number of POS systems on the market, and choosing the right one plays a huge role in starting your business.
Take a look at our article on the best POS systems to see which one is right for your business.
Different businesses need to accommodate different activities at their cash wrap. For example, at my boutique, we offered gift wrapping, needed space for folding and bagging, and hosted a variety of different-sized jewelry boxes. The tasks we performed did not require a ton of tools, so we had simple shelving and organizational bins under our counter filled with bags, scissors, ribbons, jewelry boxes, etc.
A florist, on the other hand, might need supplies at its cash wrap to cut and arrange flowers. Or, a butcher might need tools to trim and measure meats. When stocking your cash wrap, you should consider what activities will be done behind the counter, what tools those activities require, and how you will store or display those tools.
In addition to tools for checkout tasks, you should also equip your cash wrap with things employees need to quickly grab without having to leave the floor and go to storage/backstock. Items that can be offered to customers or are needed frequently as part of customer service are often stored behind the cash register for easy access.
For example, my cash wrap contained things like sewing scissors, lint rollers, and static spray—all things we could offer to customers if they needed them in their fittings.
To ensure your supplies are put to good use and everyone can access tasking items with ease, you should train your employees on how to operate, stock, and maintain your cash wrap.
Use binders for documents and bins for your supplies, make sure everything has a designated spot, and label like crazy. This will help employees utilize all the tools at the cash wrap and make their jobs easier and more efficient.
This will also help associates keep track of supplies inventory—and you should have a system in place for them to request additional supplies. Additionally, this will make your employees’ jobs easier and less frustrating, improving their job satisfaction and enabling better customer service.
Step 4: Merchandise Your Cash Wrap
Once your cash wrap is set up with supplies, it is time to make it beautiful (and sales-driving) through merchandising.
The practice of displaying your product and organizing your store to drive sales and provide a stimulating and enjoyable shopping experience. See our merchandising guide to learn more.
A well-merchandised cash wrap will turn a simple checkout counter into a locus for upselling and curating customer loyalty by encouraging impulse buys, reinforcing your brand, advertising loyalty programs, and showcasing products with proper lighting:
On average, consumers spend $3,312 a year on impulse purchases, so you want to capitalize on them whenever you can—including at your cash wrap, which is one of the best places to encourage impulse buys. Place small, inexpensive items—like snacks, jewelry, and cards—around the counter so shoppers are surrounded by enticing merchandise while they are waiting to check out.
When determining what items to place around your counter, remember that impulse-buy items should do at least one of these things:
- Complement merchandise people already have. My boutique placed jewelry at the counter to put the perfect accessories for customers’ outfits right at their noses.
- Offer a great price. A local brewery might place clearance T-shirts around its kiosk so that customers see a great deal and are more likely to add it to their carts.
- Remind a customer of need. A liquor store might place bottle openers at the checkout counter to remind customers they need one after they have selected their bottles.
- Be inexpensive. A grocery store might place $3 lip balm packs in its checkout aisle, making it easy for customers to mindlessly toss one in their cart.
You want to keep customers stimulated by merchandise while they wait; however, be sure not to overcrowd your cash wrap with products. Give plenty of space for people to wait; you want them to be able to take in the items you have on display. A good rule of thumb is the more expensive your impulse buy items are, the fewer you should have around the counter.
Your cash wrap will be one of the first and last impressions that your business will leave on customers, so you want to be sure that its merchandising is in line with your brand. The materials, language, and decor that you use can all be tools to reinforce your brand and make it stick in your customers’ minds.
For example, this funky coffee shop uses recycled materials, colorful task lighting, and fun shapes to turn its cash wrap into a design element that strengthens its brand image as a whimsical and “hipster” spot.
Had it used a slick, modern design, its cash wrap would not only have lost its power as a design element but would also have been a distraction from this business’s brand. Consider how you can use your cash wrap as a branding element. Use decor that is in line with your aesthetic and consider what impression you are leaving on customers.
Rewards and loyalty programs are a great way to build brand loyalty and create a consistent customer base, and your cash wrap is a great place to promote them. At this point, customers have already decided that they like your business enough to make a purchase. This, plus the natural excitement that comes with buying something, makes customers at the checkout counter poised for a loyalty program pitch.
Did you know?
According to the Pareto Principle, approximately 80% of revenue comes from just 20% of your customers. Focusing on that 20% and maintaining their loyalty is how you will keep your bottom line in the green.
Use signage around your cash wrap to advertise your rewards program, offer sign-up deals that people can use on their purchases, and (on top of an associate signing them up at checkout) leave a physical sign-up sheet that people can fill out as they wait. Make signing up as easy as possible and offer an incentive to get people on your list
Read more about creating a loyalty program.
Like everywhere in your store, lighting creates the backdrop where all purchases are made and can enhance your cash wrap. Be sure you are using adequate lighting to perform all the activities that go on at your checkout counter.
Generally, cash wraps have their own light sources, known as task lights, that create extra brightness in the checkout area. This area tends to need bright lighting to facilitate the reading of tags and other checkout activities.
Task Lighting: Light sources used to illuminate an area for a task or purpose.
The cash wrap also presents a great opportunity to use more creative light fixtures that will create a focal point at your counter and further define your brand.
Learn more about how to select and design retail lighting for your store.
Common Cash Wrap Mistakes
As we have seen throughout this article, there are a lot of pieces that go into making a well-designed and fully functional cash wrap. If you follow these instructions, you are sure to create something great. There are, however, pitfalls that can impede your cash wrap’s performance that you should avoid.
As your cash wrap will host a number of tasks that require visibility, you should ensure that you provide enough light for all those tasks. A dimly lit cash wrap makes those tasks harder to perform and can lead to more clerical errors. Not only that, a poorly lit cash wrap can interrupt your customer flow, as it makes the natural end point to their shopping path harder to identify when they are ready to check out.
When setting up your cash wrap, be sure to leave separate zones free of clutter: one where customers can place their items, and another where you can perform tasks like folding, wrapping, and bagging.
A cash wrap that has too much going on will actually become a distraction and deter impulse purchases. On top of that, a cluttered checkout area will leave customers with the impression that your brand is sloppy or careless. While you want to brand your cash wrap and add impulse items to boost sales, you also want to avoid displaying too much product or decor.
The best way to ensure that your checkout operations go smoothly is to have an organized storage space behind or underneath your cash wrap. A disorganized cash wrap storage space can lead to longer checkout times, frustrated customers, and unhappy employees.
Be sure that you implement an organization system for the things you keep behind the counter and, as we talked about before, train your employees on how the system works so they can maintain it.
While you certainly want to leave enough space for a smooth checkout, you should avoid a cash wrap that overwhelms your space. This will make the checkout area unnatural in your store, causing your entire space to feel overcrowded and cramped. Not only that, but an oversized cash wrap counter takes away valuable floor space that you could use to display more products.
In general, your entire checkout area—your counter and the surrounding space—should be 15%–20% of your entire store floor plan. This is something you can learn more about with our guide to planning a retail store layout.
More than payments happen at the cash wrap. From driving sales and creating customer loyalty to building your brand and having a happy and healthy business, your cash wrap is the hub for so many important aspects of growing your business. Done with the right considerations and care, as laid out in this article, you are ready to design a cash wrap that makes sense for your business and helps maximize its potential.