Point-of-sale (POS) inventory systems are software tools used by retailers and restaurants to process customer sales and track product or ingredient stock levels. Most POS inventory software have tools to ring sales, count inventory, and provide basic reports. They allow businesses to streamline back-office management by providing central access to track across multiple channels and locations. The best POS systems also streamline product purchasing at prices starting at less than $100 per month.
The POS systems with the best inventory management for small businesses are:
- Lightspeed: Best overall POS system for inventory management
- Square: Best free inventory management for new and small businesses
- Toast: Best for food and beverage businesses
- Shopify: Best for multichannel sellers
- Vend: Best for brick-and-mortar stores with large inventories or multiple locations
- Hike: Best fully featured, budget-friendly POS inventory system for retail
Top POS Inventory Systems Compared
Granular Inventory Management
Customized Reports, Cloud Access
Mobile Reporting, Cloud Access
Customized Reports, Mobile Reporting, Cloud Access
Mobile Reporting, Cloud Access
Customized Reports, Cloud Access
Mobile Reporting, Customized Reports w/fee, Cloud Access
How We Evaluated POS Inventory Systems
We considered dozens of popular and top-rated POS systems before narrowing down our list of software with standout inventory features and/or affordable price points. From there, we evaluated each system based on monthly fees, general features (including reporting), and inventory features (including low-stock alerts and purchase ordering). We also covered ease of use (such as whether or not the system is cloud-based). Finally, we looked at the overall value each software provides for its price point and considered popularity and user reviews.
Based on our evaluation, Lightspeed is the best POS inventory system, earning a score of 4.43 out of 5. This is also in line with our expert’s personal recommendation after years of reviewing POS systems for Fit Small Business and working in small businesses and retail environments managing inventory. Lightspeed’s granular inventory control features and comprehensive analytics are unrivaled at its price point.
Click through the tabs below for a full breakdown of how we evaluated POS systems with inventory management:
20% of Overall Score
We assume that businesses needing sophisticated inventory tools are willing to pay for the features they need, so pricing makes up only a small portion of our evaluation. However, the most important pricing feature we looked at is whether or not the POS system restricts the number of products you can have in any plan. We also considered affordable subscription pricing and integrated payment processing.
20% of Overall Score
We required each system to have granular inventory tracking tools, such as variant-level management for retail and ingredient-level tracking for restaurant systems. But, we also considered reporting features like mobile-accessible data, customizable reports, and whether or not the system can handle multiple sales channels.
30% of Overall Score
When evaluating inventory features, we prioritized real-time tracking, customizable low-stock alerts, barcoding, vendor management, and the ability to create and manage purchase orders.
10% of Overall Score
Busy retailers need a POS system that is functional offline and has 24/7 customer support. We also awarded points to touch-screen systems because they are easy for employees to learn and use. Cloud-based systems earn points as they allow businesses to access data anywhere.
20% of Overall Score
We reserved 20% of the overall score for our subjective evaluations of each product. Here we looked at what features a product has, how well they work, and how intuitive the interface is. We also allowed room to consider any standout feature not already evaluated above. Points were awarded for systems with positive user reviews, and we considered the overall value each POS offers for its price.
Need more than inventory management? Many of the inventory systems on this list are also some of the best POS systems for small businesses.
Lightspeed: Best Overall POS Inventory System
Lightspeed is a cloud-based POS system designed for growing small businesses with massive inventories that need to be categorized by multiple variants. Its detailed inventory features support both retail and restaurant POS solutions. Paired with a sophisticated custom reporting tool for a starting price less than $100 per month, Lightspeed is the best overall POS inventory system for small businesses.
In our evaluation, Lightspeed received a 4.43 out of 5. Granular inventory tracking, built-in purchase ordering, and the most sophisticated analytics platform earned the system a high score. However, Lightspeed does not have a free plan. And, although the reporting is cloud-based and accessible from anywhere, Lightspeed does not have a mobile reporting app like Square, Toast, and Shopify.
Lightspeed’s Standout Inventory Features
- Customizable matrixes: Sell unique product variations that are bundled and serialized.
- Work order management: Process and follow work orders in the POS system.
- Categorization and tracking: Use serial numbers and/or SKUs to identify each piece of inventory.
- Integrated vendor catalogs: Over 3,000 preloaded catalogs, upload up to 10,000 items, consolidate all purchases into one order, set custom reorder points, and fulfill special orders for customers.
- Smart pricing: Set up automated rules and discounts for customer segments, seasonal discounts, giveaways and promotions, bulk price changes, and more.
- Supplier network: Allows you to discover products, submit purchase orders, and track stock shipments from within Lightspeed POS, making a more efficient supply chain.
- Detailed analytics: Over 40 built-in reports, plus customizable settings, data visualizations, and actionable tips.
- Synced eCom: Lightspeed POS syncs with Lightspeed eCom to manage online sales from the same system.
See our guide on how to use Lightspeed inventory management software.
Square: Best Free POS Inventory System for New & Small Businesses
Square is a free POS system that includes features to manage payments, customers, orders, and products. Create a product catalog and keep an inventory count based on sales. Except for Toast, Square is the only provider in our list that offers a free plan that already supports multichannel sales with its native ecommerce tools.
Square is not a good fit for established businesses with lots of SKUs or sales channels but offers an unbeatable value for new businesses and businesses with just a few items. Square’s Pro POS plans offer additional inventory management tools, so it can grow with your business.
In our evaluation of POS inventory systems, Square earned a 4.35 out of 5. Aside from its forever-free plan, its Pro-level tier is priced at just $60 per month, making it the most cost effective choice for startups. Square has basic inventory features like variant tracking and low-stock alerts. However, lack of detailed purchase ordering, vendor management, customizable reporting, and unlimited phone support prevented Square from earning a higher score.
Square’s Standout Inventory Features
- Product catalog: Add items individually or upload in bulk using a spreadsheet, add details and variants, create product categories, and add fields for ecommerce product listings.
- Low-stock alerts: Receive daily emails that detail low-stock or out-of-stock products.
- Downloadable reports: Export reports, including inventory levels, to a printable spreadsheet.
- Integrations: For more robust inventory management, upgrade to a Pro plan or integrate with third-party tools like Stitch Labs, Shopventory, and Sku IQ.
- Square for Retail Pro: Receive stock shipments, adjust stock levels for returns and exchanges, create and send purchase orders by email, edit and note purchase orders, create vendor lists, create item libraries for each vendor, track inventory value by item, view COGS, and other advanced reports.
See our guide to using Square’s inventory tools to get started.
Toast: Best for Food Service Businesses
Toast is a software solution specifically built for the food and beverage industry. Toast’s inventory module is included in its baseline subscription, which offers the ability for users to organize inventory items according to their physical location for easier navigation. It also offers point of sale, online ordering, menu management, and more—all powered by Toast’s cloud-based operations management system.
Toast’s extremely granular inventory tracking and control, best-in class menu and food waste reporting, and feature-rich, user-friendly interface earned Toast a 4.3 out of 5 in our evaluation, and its new free plan (joining Square) managed to rack up more points in its favor. However, Toast lacks a 100% integrated purchase ordering system and requires you to use its proprietary hardware; Square, on the other hand, allows you to use your own hardware. These, along with limited phone support hours and mandatory installation fees for key add-on tools prevented Toast from earning a perfect score.
Toast’s Standout Inventory Features
- Menu analysis: Best-in-class menu analysis report with recipe and food costing calculators, so restaurants can see what menu items to keep and which ones to remove. Compare actual performance against theoretical performance.
- Auto 86’ing: Real-time ingredient-level tracking based on sales, countdowns to out-of-stocks, and integrated online ordering.
- Ingredient ordering: Manage your distributors, create purchase orders within Toast, and import invoices from distributors via CSV files.
- Reporting and analytics: Mobile-accessible cost of goods sold (COGS) and food waste reports, product mix reports, comparative reporting, and more—all with intuitive data visuals.
- Shelf layout: Map your inventory count to your actual kitchen setup for accurate reporting.
Recently, Toast has announced its new partner solution xtraCHEF for inventory management. It is no longer offering the Toast Inventory module to new customers but will continue to support existing Toast Inventory users until they are transitioned to the new software. This new feature allows Toast users to combine detailed inventory and food cost management and streamlining processes for tracking and inventory counts.
Shopify: Best Multichannel POS Inventory System
Shopify is an ecommerce platform with an equally detailed POS app that has tools to manage inventory across all sales channels. If you sell online and in person, Shopify is the best POS inventory system because you can track all customer orders and on-hand stock in a centralized system. It includes integrated barcode scanners, detailed inventory reporting, and stock monitoring tools.
Based on our criteria, Shopify’s POS inventory system received a score of 4.2 out of 5, leading popular competitors like Square and Lightspeed in cross-channel inventory management features. It earned high marks for the system’s granular, multichannel inventory control, along with purchase ordering tools, mobile apps, and a user-friendly interface. On the other hand, pricey software fees and a lack of customization options prevented Shopify from landing higher in our rankings.
Shopify POS Standout Inventory Features
- Omnichannel selling: Centralized inventory management allows for easy omnichannel transactions including buy online, pickup in-store; buy online, return/exchange in-store; and buy in-store, ship to customer.
- Product organization: Create collections for different seasons or categories, manage multiple variants, and assign SKUs.
- Inventory status: Track and share status/location of products as they are received and transferred and orders are fulfilled.
- Smart inventory management: Transfer products between locations, perform quick counts using a barcode scanner, and receive orders with a barcode scanner.
- Purchase ordering: Create and manage purchase orders; track vendors and suppliers.
- Reporting and analytics: Demand forecasting, inventory analysis, sale item suggestions, low-stock reports, and more.
- Stocky app: Stocky is an inventory management app by Shopify for POS Pro users. Many of the Shopify inventory features can be managed through Stocky.
The first step in using Shopify to manage inventory is building your online store—from there you can connect Shopify POS and manage multichannel sales. Read our guide to setting up a Shopify store.
Vend: Best for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers With Large Inventories
Vend is a popular cloud-based POS system used by retailers worldwide and stands out as the best option for large retailers selling age-restricted products. Aside from being intuitive and easy to use, Vend is Retail Access Control Standards (RACS) compliant, and easily integrates with payment processors like Worldpay that support high-risk businesses. It also includes unique features like a barcode scanning app, weighing scale integration, and product lookups from the sales floor.
Vend tied with Shopify, scoring 4.2 out of 5 based on our POS inventory system scoring criteria. Vend’s detailed inventory features including streamlined purchase ordering and shipment tracking, automation tools, and mobile scanning app earned the POS system a high score.
However, Vend is the only provider on our list that imposes a monthly turnover limit in its basic plan, and considering that its monthly fees are already pricey, the lack of mobile reporting, and limited live support ultimately prevented Vend from earning a higher score.
Vend’s Standout Inventory Features
- Scanner app: Free barcode scanner app for scanning and searching products, taking full or cycle stock counts that sync with your POS, receiving stock orders, and creating and sending inventory CSV files.
- Stock orders: Create purchase orders right from Vend, track order and invoice numbers, manage supplier lists, and track deliveries. Set custom reorder points to help automate creating stock orders. Send orders to suppliers right from the POS.
- Product management: Individual or bulk product uploads, manage variants and composites, and store it all in a centralized product catalog. Integrate with ecommerce platforms and use your existing product catalog.
- Barcoding: Create and print new or existing barcodes.
- Reporting and analytics: Build customized reports, see on-hand inventory levels, detailed sales reports, and more. Export reports as needed, and access real-time data from anywhere.
Hike POS: Best Fully Featured, Budget-Friendly POS Inventory Software
Hike is a POS system for retail businesses with full inventory features and ecommerce integration right out of the box. The subscription structure is based on features required by business size. You can upgrade and downgrade easily, activating or deactivating outlets and registers with a touch of a button. With its competitive pricing, Hike is an ideal choice for seasonal retailers, pop up stores, and specialty shops that want a highly scalable POS solution.
Hike joins our list, earning a score of 4.15 out of 5 and receiving top marks for its ease of use and inventory-specific features. It might not have a free plan like Square or Toast, but Hike offers a pricing structure that allows users to make most of its inventory management tools. However, users have complained of numerous reporting downtime and glitches. This, along with the lack of built-in processing option and full-service restaurant features, prevented Hike from claiming a higher spot in our roundup.
Hike Standout Inventory Features
- Easy bulk inventory upload: Use CSV files to upload thousands of SKUs on Hike without requiring a Hike-specific format. The system will only require you to match data fields and will alert you of any errors in field formatting.
- Granular inventory tracking: Create multiple categories, standard products, and products with variants, then assign SKUs and/or UPCs for each. Use barcodes for each variant and configure inventory tracking by product.
- Retail hybrid inventory: Composite product bundling lets you create new products based on standard products that work for ingredient and menu inventory. Ideal for quick service restaurants like coffee shops and convenience stores with food-based retail products.
- Scanner app: Hike’s scanner app is compatible with Android and iOS devices. Use your smartphone or tablet to manage retail inventory counts, including partial counts.
- Mobile register app: Hike’s iPad register app allows you to set up a checkout counter using an iPad device. It also gives access to your complete retail management system including full inventory control and reporting.
Looking for more retail POS solutions? Read our guide on the best retail POS systems on the market today.
Every retail and restaurant business needs to process sales and reorder supplies and products. A POS inventory system allows businesses to handle all of those needs in one place—you can ring sales, track products, analyze data, and reorder products easily.
Lightspeed includes standard features like payment processing, inventory tracking, and low stock alerts. It also offers unparalleled reporting and analytics with customizable reports, graphs and visual data, and tutorials on how to use reports. It’s the only POS system with inventory management on our list to come preloaded with more than 3,000 product catalogs for easy product ordering. Visit Lightspeed for a free trial.